According to the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) website, Clare Bronfman has again been transferred to Philadelphia FDC. This move will have significant consequences for the Seagram’s heiress, who is now set to be released on June 29, 2025.
Bronfman previously left the administrative detention federal lockup early last year when she was assigned to FCI-Danbury.
The most significant change is the heightened security protocols Bronfman must now face.
Bronfman was previously at FCI Danbury’s satellite low-security prison. Philadelphia FDC is primarily a pre-trial holding facility and a transit hub. The security level in the administrative detention center mirrors that of a US Penitentiary. Bronfman will be locked in her cell every night and be subject to additional security measures.
If Philadelphia FDC is her final destination, Bronfman may return as a cadre inmate. This means she will provide labor for the facility under the supervision of correctional officers. This was her status before she was previously moved to FCI Danbury.
However, Philadelphia FDC is a harsh place compared to her previous residence at FCI Danbury, which provided programming to teach inmates new skills for re-entry to society. If she remains at FDC Philadelphia, she will have minimal access to programming.
The BOP settled a lawsuit with Bronfman last year by agreeing to remove her “public safety factor” designation of “sex offender” from her file. With this designation removed, Bronfman would qualify for the First Step Act or the CARES Act, which could reduce her incarceration time.
However, the limited programming available at Philadelphia FDC may not qualify for sentence reduction. Additionally, the BOP still seems to consider Bronfman a sex offender, which subjects her to longer in-prison time and less halfway house placement, and prohibits her from having prison phone or email privileges.
Clare Bronfman is staring at multiple legal and administrative landmines.
The time cuts rely heavily on finishing the approved and executed BOP programs. Philly FDC lacks extensive programming, being an admin lockup and not a reformative facility. Even the meager educational programming they offer may not count towards shortening a sentence.
The BOP is under fire because they have been dragging its feet in implementing Earned Time Credit to inmates who deserve it. After a fiery letter from the Senate Judiciary Committee, the BOP changed course and issued a First Step Act Time Credits Policy last November. The BOP “continues to make progress in fully implementing the historic First Step Act,” which means the time credit regime still has not been fully implemented, so don’t hold your breath.
Another significant issue Bronfman has is that the BOP still considers her a sex offender [SO].
Last November, Bronfman dropped a habeas corpus petition against the BOP when they apparently agreed to remove her “public safety factor” designation as a sex offender from her file.
Sex Offenders are generally subjected to longer in-prison time, less halfway house placement, and a tougher bid while they are on the inside. SOs of every type are universally disdained by prison staff and fellow inmates alike.
Bronfman recently tried to re-open her habeas corpus case against the BOP and FCI-Danbury, claiming they welched on their promise to remove her sex offender label.
“Though BOP did remove the sex offender label from her file, Ms. Bronfman continues to be treated as though she has been convicted of a sex offense: a case worker recently informed her that, because of her ‘offense status’ as a sex offender, the warden would not grant her any CARES Act / FIRST STEP Act time credits,” read Bronfman’s papers filed in Connecticut federal court.
Bronfman was also told that her “offense status” as a sex offender prohibited her re-classification into a camp, where she would have been housed but for the erroneous sex offender tag.
In their court papers, the BOP said the petition was settled. Bronfman needed to restart the administrative remedy process under the Prisoner Litigation Reform Act (PLRA) (which takes six months or more) and then bring a new petition. Bronfman’s lawyers argued the District Court could resolve the issue without the “procedural gymnastics.”
Now we will never know. By moving Bronfman to Philadelphia FDC, the habeas corpus case is now moot because Clare is no longer imprisoned within the District of Connecticut. The BOP has effectively done an end-run around the Connecticut stipulation.
Bronfman must seek relief from the Eastern District of Pennsylvania’s federal court. Clare must restart the PLRA process to complain about Philly FDC’s BOP personnel, none of whom were involved in the Connecticut lawsuit. Philly FDC officials may remove the SO tag, but it isn’t very likely, as they didn’t before.
Bronfman might just be passing through Philly in transit to another prison. It could take weeks for her to be transported, and maybe even more than a month if she’s headed far away.
There aren’t many BOP facilities for female prisoners nearby, except Hazelton FCI in West Virginia, south of Pittsburgh. Clare might be bound for that place or someplace else entirely.
Usually, the BOP designates inmates within 500 miles of their release residence. Bronfman’s residence is Manhattan.
If Bronfman were moved to another FCI, Hazelton would fit the bill.
Unlike Connecticut, New York, or Philadelphia, West Virginia is not crawling with lawyers. If she’s moved there or to another, more rural facility, Clare will have slimmer pickings to bring local lawyers in to meet with her. And the heiress won’t have to worry about the temperature in the attorney meeting rooms.
This is especially important if she wants to bring another habeas corpus petition against the BOP if they continue to apply the SO tag. She would have to file in federal court, where she is then located.
But then again all the BOP would have to do if she started to win is transfer her to another prison and she’d have to start all over again
But maybe new lawyers and a new court will do Clare Bronfman some good. It seems the only thing her current lawyers are doing well right now is billing.
Richard Luthmann is a writer, commentator, satirist, and investigative journalist with degrees from Columbia University and the University of Miami. Once a fixture in New York City and State politics, Luthmann is a recovering attorney who lives in Southwest Florida and a proud member of the National Writers Union.
For Article Ideas, Tips, or Help: email@example.com or call 239-287-6352.