I was being held at Rikers Island for a white collar crime. Here’s what former Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg should expect
In the wake of Allen Weisselberg’s plea deal and his impending designation to serve his sentence behind bars on Rikers Island, people might be curious to know what it’s really like to be imprisoned on Rikers Island – in especially for a geriatric white collar offender. Audiences hear so many scary stories, it can be hard to imagine surviving internment in what might be the country’s most infamous prison.
Yes I know. I am a 72 year old male who served most of 2019 at three different institutions for the crime of tax evasion. And one of them was Rikers.
Once the judge convicts Weisselberg, he will likely be escorted to the Eric M. Taylor Center (EMTC, where most convicted inmates hang out). Inmates entering the general population are housed in a dormitory-like environment with 60–80 beds; rows and rows of urinals and dumpsters; five battered showerheads without partitions; and long sinks with multiple faucets. It may sound grim, but I actually preferred this arrangement on Rikers to my previous accommodation at MCC Federal Prison. There I was locked in 60 square feet with another inmate for 10 hours a day, with just a small sink and a toilet located in the middle of the cell to do our things. Definitely, modesty was not in order!
Luckily for Allen, he won’t have to suffer any of these humiliations. Prisoners held in custody at Rikers have their own individual cells, complete with stainless steel toilets that they can use in private. I can’t imagine a man of Weisselberg’s age or social status landing in the general population. He will ask for custody and will get it if he has not already done so. It’s almost a given.
But there are downsides to the PC case. By the time meals are delivered to their unit, they are lukewarm at best. A guard told me that the inmates who deliver the food to the PC tend to do unspeakable “stuff” to that food along the way, knowing where it’s going. And pretrial detention houses snitches as well as the rich and infamous. Jailbirds hate snitches. So it’s no exaggeration to think that they will also spoil their food.
Additionally, remand inmates are mostly confined to their units and are not as free to move around as general population inmates. And when they are, they are escorted to prevent them from getting blown up.
Allen’s buddies in custody will likely be an assortment of snitches, pedophiles, and/or people who have angered their fellow inmates so much that officials fear they’ll be murdered if left in “g-pop.” . It’s not exactly a fertile landscape in which to make friends for a former white-collar offender.
Although he can find a friend or two to pass the time with, Allen might be better served if his family and friends send him reading material, which they are allowed to do by mail. But no hardcover books! They could become a weapon. Rikers officials are so concerned with instruments designed for assault that when you buy a small plastic radio from the quartermaster, prison guards remove the battery cover, acknowledging that it could be shaved into a knife.
If Allen likes (or dislikes) reading like his boss (Donald doesn’t read), he could alternatively spend his time doing odd jobs in prison like sweeping or cleaning the unit. But as a remand prisoner, he will do so within the confines of that unit, since, as mentioned above, PC prisoners only leave when escorted on life-saving missions. Prisoners on remand cannot work in the yard or anywhere else on the vast island.
If Weisselberg is lucky and only serves the five months that many media outlets have reported he will likely spend behind bars, I would advise him to research Rikers thoroughly so he knows what to expect. Mind your own business when you get there. Don’t be too friendly with the guards. And don’t look guys up and down – or in their eyes for more than a microsecond. Protective guard or not, there will be bad boys in his unit that he will want to avoid.
And finally, to the best of your ability, Allen, don’t come across as meek and easily preyed upon. I know you are an old man. But I saw Paul Manafort take care of the detainees. And he was 69 years old. Jeffrey Epstein, on the other hand, was one of the softer prisoners, who was clearly terrified of dealing with violent, hardened criminals.
Follow Paulie’s Road. You will get there. And best of all, you’ll emerge from the yoke of one of the most repulsive human beings to ever rule the free world. Keep an eye on this price and you will.