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July 16, 2009

"Sins and Admission: Getting Into the Top Prisons"

The title of this posts is the headline of this intriguing little article from today's Wall Street Journal.  Here is how it starts:

The federal judge overseeing the trial of Bernard Madoff said he would recommend the man who pulled off the biggest Ponzi scheme in U.S. history serve out his sentence in the Northeast. Instead, Mr. Madoff landed in a prison nearly 500 miles away from his New York home, in North Carolina.

How Mr. Madoff ended up in a medium-security facility at Butner Federal Correctional Center could remain a mystery. The Bureau of Prisons won't discuss the placement of specific inmates, and even veteran attorneys are often left to scratch their heads at why their clients wind up in particular facilities.

But the bureau has created guidelines. Criminal defense attorneys and prison consultants who have made careers of trying to perfect the art of swaying placement also shed some light on what factors federal officials may have used to send Mr. Madoff to Butner.

While the Bureau of Prisons generally tries to follow judges' recommendations, "once you're sentenced, you're entirely in the government's hands and they can do whatever they want with you," said Lindy Urso, a defense attorney who has represented federal defendants including reputed mobster Salvatore "Fat Sal" Scala, who was housed at the medical facility in Butner until he died of liver cancer in December. The same evaluation process applies to federal inmates whether they are federal drug offenders, money launderers, white collar criminals or perpetrators of heinous violent crimes.

The bureau uses a scorecard of sorts, ranking inmates by a number of factors including the length of punishment. Sentences longer than 10 years automatically disqualify inmates from a fence-less federal prison camp. If inmates have serious health problems, they are usually placed in a federal medical facility. The bureau also considers bed availability and safety factors for the public at large as well as the inmate.

In lobbying for specific facilities, prison consultants and legal experts focus on a convict's pre-sentencing report, a document that lists medical, financial and other information about the incoming inmate. Defense attorneys scour the report in search of anything that could land a convict in an undesirable facility. They try to convince a judge to delete those items so the Bureau of Prisons won't see them.

July 16, 2009 at 05:19 PM | Permalink


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Does anybody have any experience with these North Carolina Lawyers ?

Posted by: Felix Chesterfield | Jul 17, 2009 9:45:25 AM

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