By Joe O’Hara
Going to prison is hard for everyone.
I know because I’ve been there.
But it’s harder for some than others – and a lot of the difference has to do with where you were in life just before you were incarcerated.
Long before I reported to the Metropolitan Detention Center in December 2013, I had already lost much of what I had attained in life.
Up until the time that I became a consultant to NMXIVM in October 2003, I had what many would call a charmed life.
Although I came from a very modest background, hard work and a lot of lucky breaks allowed me to have a great career.
All that changed once I quit working for NXIVM in January 2005 – and refused to return despite the alternating entreaties and threats that I received from Keith Raniere’s various representatives (I had started working as a Consultant to NXIVM in October 2003 – and quit when I determined that the organization’s co-founders, Keith Raniere and Nancy Salzman, were engaged in a variety of illegal activities).
As NXIVM waged legal – and illegal – war on me for the next 8 years, I lost more and more of things that I once held near and dear.
By the time I reported to MDC, I was living a very modest life, taking whatever gig jobs I could find to get by, and trying to figure out how I was going to survive once I got out.
Thus, while being in prison for 28-months was certainly not a fun experience, I did not lie awake at night fretting over what I had left behind when I reported to MDC.
That won’t be the case for Clare Bronfman.
Unprepared & Ill-Advised
When Clare went to her sentencing hearing on September 30th, she obviously thought she would be allowed to return home – and to get her life in order before she would have to report to whatever prison the BOP eventually assigns her to.
Otherwise, she wouldn’t have worn her favorite necklace to the proceedings (Despite what some pundits have claimed, Clare was definitely not “dressed for prison” when she entered the EDNY courthouse on September 30th).
Even when the judge said that she was being remanded, she obviously didn’t understand what the word meant (Apparently it wasn’t on the list of words she had to learn for her GED test).
It was only when four U.S. Marshals came to escort her from the courtroom that she grasped what was happening (At that point, her lead attorney, Ronald Sullivan, Jr., whispered something to her).
I can’t even begin to imagine the fear that gripped her as she was led out of the courtroom by the four Marshals.
Given her history, I’m surprised she didn’t faint…
She did, however, according to courtroom observers begin to cry.
It won’t be the last time.
From Holding Cell to Van to Prison
Unless she pissed or shit herself – which is not an uncommon outcome when someone is remanded during a sentencing hearing – Clare was initially taken to a holding cell within the EDNY courthouse.
She would have stayed there all by herself – probably for a couple of hours – until she was driven over to MDC.
Upon arriving at MDC, Clare was escorted to the Intake Unit – and required to fill out several forms.
Next, she was taken over to an enclosed area and subjected to her first strip search. “Turn around, squat and cough” will become a phrase that she absolutely abhors.
After that, she was given her first set of prison garb: panties, bra, a pair of pants and a shirt, a tee-shirt, a pair of socks, and a pair of prison shoes (The specific clothing varies from prison to prison but they’re all equally bland and unattractive).
She would also have been asked (actually encouraged) if she would like to donate the clothing she was wearing when she arrived – and when she declined, she would have been given a cardboard box to put things in and asked to address it to her selected recipient (The odds of her favorite necklace being in that box when it arrives at her intended destination are about 1,000-to-1).
She then went through a couple of interviews where she was asked about her mental health and physical health so that it could be determined if she needed to be put on Suicide Watch.
Assuming she didn’t raise any alarms during those interviews, she was then taken to whatever unit they’re using at MDC to isolate newly-admitted female inmates for 10-14 days.
Along the way, she would have been instructed to pick up a “bedroll” that included a blanket, a sheet and a pillowcase, a facecloth, and a towel (If she was lucky, she also was able to pick up a pillow but that doesn’t always happen).
Nothing in her bedroll has the thread-count and softness that she’s grown used to in her 41 years of living a life of luxury. And all of it has a smell that Clare will eventually not even notice.
Finally, she was deposited in her temporary cell – and the door to it was closed and locked.
If there were inmates in nearby cells in the isolation unit, one or more of them might have called out to her (I could be wrong but I’m guessing she didn’t answer – which will be her first mistake in prison).
If not, she was then surrounded by silence.
Facilities for Federal Female Prisoners
Although their numbers have been growing in recent years, women still only account for about 7% of the federal prison population. That translates out to about 11,000 prisoners.
The Bureau of Prisons operates twenty-none (29) sites that house female prisoners. Here are links to all of them:
- Alderson FPC
- Aliceville FCI
- Brooklyn MDC
- Bryan FPC
- Carswell FMC
- Chicago MCC
- Coleman Low FCI
- Danbury FCI
- Dublin FCI
- Greenville FCI
- Guaynabo MDC
- Hazelton FCI
- Honolulu FDC
- Houston FDC
- Lexington FMC
- Los Angeles MDC
- Marianna FCI
- Miami FDC
- New York MCC
- Oklahoma City FTC
- Pekin FCI
- Philadelphia FDC
- Phoenix FCI
- San Diego MCC
- SeaTac FDC
- Tallahassee FCI
- Tucson FCI
- Victorville Medium II FCI
- Waseca FCI
FCC = Federal Correctional Complex
FCI = Federal Correctional Institution
FDC = Federal Detention Center
FMC = Federal Medical Center
FPC = Federal Prison Camp
FTC = Federal Transfer Center
MCC = Metropolitan Correctional Center
MDC = Metropolitan Detention Center
Where Will Clare Be Assigned?
Since the BOP generally tries to house prisoners within 500 miles of their former residence, Clare will most likely end up somewhere in the Northeast.
In a rather baffling move, her attorneys submitted a request to Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis on October 1, 2020 – just one day after Clare was sentenced – asking him to “recommend to the Bureau of Prisons that Ms. Bronfman be assigned, if appropriate, to the minimum-security camp at Danbury, or other similar facility close to New York City.” They also asked the judge to release the $100-million bond she had posted back in July 2018.
Normally, this type of placement arrangement is part of a plea deal – or it’s included in the “Sentencing Memorandum” that defense attorneys submit on behalf of their clients before sentencing takes place. Neither of those things happened in Clare’s case.
But despite the lateness of the request, Judge Garaufis has issued an Order granting both requests. The wording of that Order is as follows:
ORDER: Defendant’s request to exonerate bail is GRANTED. The court recommends to the Bureau of Prisons that Defendant be designated to the minimum security camp at Danbury, CT. So-Ordered. Ordered by Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis on 10/5/2020.
In any event, where Clare will serve her time in prison will ultimately be decided by the BOP’s Designation and Sentence Compilation Center in Grand Prairie, TX. The judge’s recommendation will carry little, if any, weight in terms of where Clare is assigned.
Normally, the assignment process takes a few weeks but with the COVID-19 pandemic still going strong, it’s possible that Clare may languish at MDC until the end of the year.
If Clare does end up at Danbury FCI, then she’ll be joining 844 other female inmates serving time there.
The Danbury facility actually has three separate units: a low-security prison that houses 659 inmates, an adjacent low-security satellite prison that houses another 131 inmates, and a low-security satellite camp that houses 55 inmates in a dormitory-like setting.
Although many people think that Martha Stewart served her five-month prison term at the Danbury camp, that is not the case. Martha was actually incarcerated at the Federal Prison Camp near Alderson, WV.
The Danbury prison is, however, where Piper Kerman, the author of “Orange Is the New Black,” served 13 months in prison.
One thing that Clare might want to do while she’s at MDC is read up on the rules and regulations at Danbury.
Those are spelled out quite clearly in the “Inmate Admission & Orientation Handbook” for the facility.
She might also want to peruse the list of items that are available from the Commissary at Danbury FCI.
There are lots and lots of options – and, unfortunately for her, she’ll be there long enough to try everything on the list.
Unlike most federal prisoners, Clare will be subject to several “special conditions” that were read into the record at her sentencing hearing.
While we won’t have a complete list of those “special conditions” until we receive a transcript of the September 30th sentencing hearing, courtroom observers have provided us with a partial list of them.
No Contact With NXIVM Members
Thus, we know that Clare will not be allowed to have any contact with anyone who has ever been associated with NXIVM.
Given that Clare has already claimed not to have any friends outside of the NXIVM cult, this alone will ensure that her prison time will be extremely lonely.
Presumably, her attorneys will request that Judge Garaufis allow Clare to have contact with her sister, Sarah Bronfman-Igtet, who was another major funder of the NXIVM criminal enterprise – but there is no way of knowing how the judge will rule on such a request.
No Depositing Funds Into Other Prisoner’s Commissary Accounts
We also know that Clare will not be allowed to transfer money into the commissary account of any other federal prisoner.
While this was probably intended to prevent Clare from providing any more assistance to her mentor, Keith Alan Raniere, it will also mean that she will not be able to buy favors for – or protection from – her fellow prisoners.
That could turn out to be a real problem once those fellow prisoners learn just how wealthy Clare is (She reportedly earns $25-$30 million per year of income on her assets).
No Transfer of Assets Without Court Approval
Clare reportedly has been ordered not to transfer any of her assets without the court’s approval – which, once again, is going to make it hard for her to siphon off financial assistance for Raniere.
We won’t know the full extent of this restriction until we see the transcript but it sounds like the court intends to monitor Clare’s spending through the time she’s imprisoned.
A Very Bleak Future
Assuming that she doesn’t do anything to lose any of the “good time” that she will otherwise accrue while she’s in prison, Clare will be released from prison sometime around July 1, 2026.
That means that she will spend 2,135 days incarcerated in federal prison – which is almost three times the number of days I was at MDC.
The only “good news” is that after today, she’ll have worked that number down to 2,129.
Viva Executive Success!
[Editor’s Note: If Clare ends up being assigned to serve her time at the MCC in Manhattan or the MDC in Brooklyn, then there’s a strong possibility that the Feds aren’t done with her yet. Having her assigned to one of those locations would make it much easier to bring additional charges against her – either in the EDNY or the NDNY.]