TRAFICANT CASE Prison will cramp style for ex-rep
Prison will impose changes on nearly every aspect of the former congressman's life.
By PATRICIA MEADE
VINDICATOR CRIME REPORTER
YOUNGSTOWN -- Once James A. Traficant Jr. is locked inside a federal prison, don't try to cheer him up with candy or flowers.
Don't bake cakes or cookies to ship by overnight express.
Don't pack up a box of easy-listening, hard rock, rap, country or classical CDs to send, either.
Don't plan on having him as an e-mail pen pal.
As a prisoner, the ex-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.
U.S. District Judge Lesley Brooks Wells will sentence Traficant on Tuesday on convictions of racketeering, bribery, obstruction of justice and tax evasion. Five days ago, the U.S. House of Representatives found convincing evidence that Traficant violated House rules and expelled him.
Once the Bureau of Prisons has all the necessary records to determine his placement, it can happen in two to four weeks, said Dan Dunne, BOP spokesman in Washington, D.C.
Barring unforeseen delay, Traficant will be in prison when voters go to the polls Nov. 5 and see him listed on the ballot as an independent congressional candidate.
Prison for Traficant means more than simply loss of freedom. It will impose changes on nearly every aspect of his life.
His lifestyle as a sitting congressman for 171/2 years has included being driven nearly everywhere he went in Mahoning, Trumbull and Columbiana counties, usually by a paid staffer. Trial testimony showed that he enjoyed pricey dinners paid for by constituents.
His time away from Washington included working at his 76-acre horse farm in Greenford, often aided by paid staffers on federal time. The work included mowing and baling hay and caring for his saddle-bred horses.
For his nine terms in Congress, the 61-year-old Poland man enjoyed secluded taxpayer-funded offices, first in Boardman and now in Canfield, to use with assurance of privacy.
Privacy will become a distant memory as he joins a prison population.
Traficant's first week of incarceration will include orientation. He'll learn the prison rules and what happens should he break them.
For personal entertainment, Traficant can have a radio with headphones in his cell.
He can display photos as long as everyone is clothed. Nude or sexually suggestive photos are prohibited, so there go the Playboy bunnies he mentions from time to time.
If he wants any religious articles -- prayer shawl, beads, headgear or medals -- they can be purchased from the prison commissary.
The commissary will virtually be his one-stop shopping experience. Inmates buy everything from clothing, shoes and writing materials to snacks, recreation supplies and personal hygiene products.
Books, magazines and newspapers sent to him will first be opened and inspected, Dunne said. All mail will be opened except legal correspondence.
Inmates, Dunne said, must have approval of contents before any package is sent.
Traficant won't be permitted to accumulate a lot of stuff in his cell, including mail. Cells are inspected "all the time" and clutter that causes security, sanitation or fire hazard concerns is removed, Dunne said.
His jewelry will be limited to a plain wedding band.
His personal hygiene products may include nail clippers -- without the file.
Aside from writing letters, inmates are permitted to make phone calls to keep in touch with the outside world. The size of the prison determines the number of calls inmates may make.
Federal prisons allow radio, print and TV interviews -- with permission from the warden -- but that's it. The BOP has a news policy that takes into account security concerns, Dunne said.
Inmates' interviews, he said, are not to be used for publicity. Once authorization is given, reporters can do phone interviews or visit the inmate and bring along photographers.
When placing an inmate, the BOP takes into account societal and medical needs, the length of sentence and a recommendation from the judge, Dunne said. Judges often convey to the BOP requests they receive from the inmate or inmate's family for a specific prison.
Unless there is a concern about Traficant's reporting to prison when told, the ex-congressman will be allowed to self-report, Dunne said. Otherwise, U.S. marshals will transport him.
Inmates are generally placed in a facility near home to allow visitation by family, Dunne said. The closest Federal Correctional Institute is in Elkton, a low-security prison just east of Lisbon off state Route 154.
The BOP has six facilities considered to be near Traficant's home, including ones in McKean, Pa., Loretto, Pa., and Morgantown, W.Va.
Traficant will have to give up his trademark denim or polyester bell bottoms and cowboy boots. His skinny ties will not be needed.
Typical prison garb is drab-colored cotton pants and shirts that resemble pajamas. Inmates wear sturdy shoes while working and tennis shoes for leisure activities.
Inmates at Elkton, for example, are housed dormitory-style and sleep in bunk beds.
They rise at 6 a.m., dress in khaki uniforms, and then, after breakfast, put in 71/2 hours of work. Tasks include janitorial, food service, maintenance and groundskeeping.
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.
Traficant, if he wants to write a book while in prison, will have to use a typewriter in the law library or write it out in longhand and send the pages out to be typed, Dunne said. Computers are not allowed in the cells for safety reasons.
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 relationship with the inmate, Dunne said.