SUMTERVILLE, Fla. - Both a former federal corrections officer and an inmate who did time at the correctional complex where Corrine Brown could spend the next five years told News4Jax that her life inside will not be easy.
The former U.S. representative will spend her last weekend as a free woman, then must surrender to Coleman Federal Correctional Complex in Sumpter County by noon Monday. Richard Pari used to be a corrections lieutenant at the minimum-security federal facility in central Florida. A woman who is only using the named Alice, who served most of her five-year sentence for insurance fraud at the facility.
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Pari said Brown will be given a green jump suit, a locker that's 3 feet high and 2 feet wide for her personal belongings and be put in the general inmate population.
"They enter a new lifestyle, and you have to adapt to that new lifestyle," Pari said. "Everything is taken from you."
Pari said she will be treated like any other prisoner, and other inmates could take advantage of that. On her first day, Alice said Brown will be labeled a newbie, given a case manager and assigned to a housing dormitory unit. She will not get a private cell.
Brown, a 12-term congresswoman convicted of 18 charges, including fraud, conspiracy and cheating on her taxes, will stand out not only because of her notoriety, but also because of her age. Statistics from the Federal Bureau of Prisons show that only 23 of nearly 400 prisoners at the Coleman facility are over the age of 64. Brown is 71.
"Let's put it this way: Being high profile, people might try to exploit you for money and commissary (credits)," Pari said. "And even then, hypothetically, she has a lower bunk. She could be strong-armed for that."
Alice agreed that Brown's name and reputation will proceed her.
"The inmates will probably know her. A lot of them will. The guards will definitely know who she is, but it won't mean anything to them. They're going to let her know, 'Just because you were somebody out there, you're not going to be anybody in here,'" Alice said.
Alice said that during her 2½-hour drive to prison, she only remembered walking in alone.
"She is going to face the feeling of despair, a feeling (of), 'What am I going to do when I walk through those doors?'" Alice said. "You go in a door called R and D, receiving and discharge. It's the door you walk in, and it's the door you look forward to walking out of."
Brown will be given a psychological evaluation, and if a doctor possibly determines that she's suicidal, Pari said she could be transferred to a different federal medical facility that can handle inmates like that.
Coleman is a work camp. Alice said prisoners wake up, eat, then go to work, which could be outside mowing grass, digging, or whatever the camp needs. It does not matter how old the prisoner is, and it's the same routine day in and day out.
"You always hear that this is a country club setting," Alice said. "Coleman has been called Club Fed. Maybe it's different from the other camps, but we have a lot of ladies that have transferred from the other camps to come in and say it's not so different."
Brown continues to maintain her innocence and has asked that she stay free on bond while her federal appeals play out, but both the trial judge and appeals courts have denied her request. Her appeals will continue while she is in prison.
Alice said she has seen a couple of inmates still appealing while in prison.
"I did see one lady that was in there for a long time that won her appeal, but she was there for a long time," Alice said.
Alice said the biggest punishment is being separated from family. She said her sentence taught her a lesson and she will never again put herself in a position where she would have to go back.
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