Sat, 20 August 2022 at 3:59 pm
In the wake of Allen Weisselberg’s plea deal and impending designation to serve his time behind bars on Rikers Island, people might be curious as to what it’s really like to be jailed at Rikers — especially for a geriatric white-collar offender. The public hears so many scary stories that it can be hard to imagine surviving internment in what might possibly be the country’s most infamous jail.
Well, I know. I’m a 72-year-old man who served most of 2019 at three different institutions for the crime of tax fraud. And one of them was Rikers.
Once the judge sentences Weisselberg, he’ll likely be escorted to the Eric M. Taylor Center (EMTC, where most sentenced inmates end up). Inmates who enter general population are housed in a dormitory-style environment with 60 to 80 beds; rows and rows of urinals and dumpers; five beat-up shower heads with no partitions; and long sinks with several faucets. It may sound grim, but I actually preferred that arrangement on Rikers to my previous accommodations at MCC federal prison. There, I was locked into 60 square feet along with another inmate for 10 hours a day, with just a small sink and a toilet located in the middle of the cell with which to do our business. Clearly, modesty was not the order of the day!
Fortunately for Allen, he won’t have to suffer any of those humiliations. Prisoners held in protective custody on Rikers are afforded their own single cells, complete with stainless steel toilets they can use privately. I can’t imagine a man of Weisselberg’s age or social standing landing in general population. He’ll request protective custody and get it if he hasn’t already. That’s almost a given.
But there are downsides to PC housing. By the time meals are shuttled to their unit, they are at best lukewarm. One guard told me that the inmates who deliver the food to PC tend to do unspeakable “stuff” to that food en route, knowing where it’s going. And protective custody houses snitches as well as the rich and infamous. Jailbirds hate snitches. So it’s not a stretch to think they’ll mess with their food, too.
Additionally, protective custody inmates are mostly confined to their units and not as free to move around as prisoners in the general population. And when they are, they’re escorted to prevent them from getting jumped.
Allen’s homies in protective custody will likely be an assortment of snitches, pedophiles, and/or people who have so angered their fellow inmates that the officials fear they might be murdered if left in “g-pop”. That’s not exactly a fertile landscape in which to make friends for an old, white-collar offender.
Though he could find a friend or two to pass the time with, Allen might be better served having his family and friends forward reading material, which they’re allowed to do via snail mail. But no hardcover books! They could become a weapon. So concerned with instruments fashioned for assaults are the officials at Rikers that when you buy a little plastic radio at commissary, the prison guards remove the battery cover, recognizing that it could be shaved into a shiv.
If Allen is as fond (or not fond) of reading as his boss (Donald doesn’t read), he could alternatively spend his time working menial prison jobs like sweeping or mopping the unit. But as an inmate in protective custody, he’ll do it within the confines of that unit, since, as aforementioned, PC prisoners only leave when escorted on vital missions. Prisoners in protective custody can’t work in the yard or anywhere else on the expansive island.
If Weisselberg is lucky and only serves the five months many media have reported he’s likely to spend behind bars, my advice to him would be to research Rikers fully so he knows what to expect. Mind your business when you get there. Don’t be overly friendly with the guards. And don’t look guys up and downâ€Š—â€Šor in their eyes for more than a microsecond. Protective custody or not, â€Šthere are gonna be some bad boys in his unit he’ll want to avoid.
And finally, to the best of your ability, Allen, don’t appear soft and easily preyed upon. I know you’re an old man. But I watched Paul Manafort handle inmates. And he was 69. Jeffrey Epstein, on the other hand, was one of the softest prisoners, who was clearly terrified of the idea of dealing with violent, hardened criminals.
Go Paulie’s route. You’ll make it. And best of all, you’ll be out from under the yoke of one of the most repulsive human beings ever to lead the free world. Keep your eye on that prize and you’ll make it.