Traficant arrives at prison complex
With good behavior, the former congressman could be out in mid-May 2009.
By PATRICIA MEADE
VINDICATOR CRIME REPORTER
Imprisoned ex-congressman James A. Traficant Jr. won't make license plates for the next eight years, but he could build office furniture for federal agencies.
Traficant -- No. 31213-060 -- checked into the Federal Correctional Institution at Allenwood at 2:45 p.m. Monday, after spending six nights in the Summit County Jail. Allenwood is his permanent designation.
A week ago today, Traficant, 61, of Poland, began serving his sentence on convictions of racketeering, bribery, obstruction of justice and tax evasion. With good behavior, he could be released in mid-May 2009; without it, his release would be early July 2010.
He is assigned to the 55-acre low-security section of Allenwood's massive complex in central Pennsylvania. Double rows of barbed-wire fence run the perimeter, and armed guards patrol it.
About the prison
Allenwood is 197 miles north of Washington, D.C., and 15 miles south of Williamsport, home of the Little League World Series. The complex is surrounded by a rural, mountainous area, punctuated with lush rolling hills.
Most of the prison's 1,398 low-security inmates are kept in four dormitory-style housing units. Each L-shaped dormitory has two wings per unit, with 62 small cubicles per wing, double bunked.
Traficant will be in a cubicle with at least one roommate, said Dan Dunne, Bureau of Prisons spokesman in Washington.
As of Monday, Allenwood had 609 minimum-security inmates in its camp; 1,417 in medium-security lockup; and 980 prisoners in its high-security penitentiary, Dunne said.
The property for the camp was acquired from the War Department in 1952. In the early 1990s, another 640 acres were acquired for the low, medium and penitentiary facilities.
Jobs for inmates
Roughly one-quarter of Allenwood's 4,404 inmates work in UNICOR, a name picked to represent federal prison industries. The factory works two shifts to build office furniture components -- chair frames, drawer boxes, apron rails and so forth -- out of wood for purchase by federal agencies.
Those building furniture earn 26 cents to a little more $1 per hour.
Federal inmates do not make license plates, Dunne said.
They do many other tasks for 71/2 hours each day.
Traficant will go through orientation for a week or so then receive a work assignment suited to his abilities. He can communicate immediately by writing letters; his phone privileges will be described during orientation, Dunne said.
If not chosen to build furniture, Traficant could find himself doing food service (preparation, cooking, baking, serving, cleanup), groundskeeping, plumbing, painting or warehouse chores.
Inmates doing that kind of work earn 12 to 40 cents per hour.
The income can be used for commissary goods or be applied to their fines.
U.S. District Judge Lesley Brooks Wells ordered that Traficant pay the cost of his incarceration, $1,848 each month. She said the amount is capped at $150,000.
Allenwood inmates wear khaki uniforms for work and sweat pants for leisure activities. They rise at 6 or 6:30 a.m. and are back in their cubicles by 9 p.m. for one of the many daily head counts, Dunne said.
Each prison has its own lights out policy, Dunne said.
Under his control
Traficant has control over one aspect of his life: His prison mug shot -- taken without his toupee -- will not be seen outside the prison unless he agrees.
Photos of inmates are government documents and not released by the prison, Dunne said. If, however, an inmate gives consent, a photocopy of the prison photo can be released, he said.
Should Traficant do press interviews, he could allow a news photographer to take his picture, Dunne said.
Michael Millken, Wall Street junk bond king, was not permitted to keep his hairpiece in prison and did not allow a photo showing his bald head to be distributed to the press, Dunne said.
Traficant intends to run as an independent in the Nov. 5 general election for the reconfigured 17th District. With residency a question, Traficant had requested that he be placed in an Ohio prison.
The Constitution states that a person elected to the U.S. House of Representatives shall be an inhabitant of the state in which elected. His running for office from prison would set a precedent.
Dunne said Traficant, if elected, could not carry out congressional duties, which would be considered a business and therefore prohibited by prison policy. Dunne wasn't sure whether Traficant could assign his duties to another.
Allenwood's population is 55 percent white, 41.4 black and 3.6 percent other. Sixty-four percent of the prisoners committed drug offenses; 4.8 percent arson or explosive-related crimes; 2.3 percent, robbery; and 8.4 percent, immigration offenses. Allenwood is the facility used to house inmates set for deportation hearings, Dunne said.
As a prisoner, the former congressman won't be allowed to receive flowers or perishable food or keep a CD player. He won't have a computer with Internet access for personal use.
Computers are available only for certain education classes.
For personal entertainment, Traficant can have a radio with headphones in his cubicle.
He can display photos as long as everyone in them is clothed.
Leisure time includes television or intramural sports such as softball, basketball, football and soccer. There's also an area for aerobic exercises.
Prison TVs offer basic cable only, Dunne said. TV viewing is done in a common room used by inmates.
Each federal prison has established visiting hours -- usually on weekends and never at night -- and checks the background of each person on the inmate's visitors list. Visitors must be family or friends, someone who had a previous relationship with the inmate, Dunne said.
Among Traficant's low-security fellow inmates is Kevin Granato, convicted of a string of mob-related crimes and set to be released in 2012. ABC News described him as a former hit man for the Colombo crime family and reported that prison authorities believed he smuggled out his sperm and that his wife, who gave birth in 1999, was inseminated with it.
Federal prisons do not permit conjugal visits.
Aldrich Ames, infamous CIA-agent-turned-spy, is serving a life sentence in Allenwood's high-security penitentiary. Ames was arrested by the FBI on espionage charges in February 1994. The 31-year CIA veteran had been spying for the Russians since 1985.
In April, after a 10-week trial, a federal jury in Cleveland found Traficant guilty of 10 counts and the House expelled him July 24. His lawyers are appealing his conviction.