It's not likely that Bernard Madoff will spend all 150 years of his sentence in prison, but the time that he does spend there will be highly structured with lengthy stretches of solitude. There is plenty of advice available regarding how he might survive in the environment he is entering.
There's even a business called "Wall Street Prison Consultants", designed to cater to the needs and answer the question of inmates-to-be who were white collar titans and never thought they would face time in an actual Federal lock up. I wish I had invented this idea for its comic cynicism, but it is shockingly real.
A Reuters story about Mr. Madoff's prospects had this prediction:
The chances of Madoff running his own investment club inside the prison are slim, but -- when he isn't working -- he should have plenty of time to read, write, exercise, and even network with other prisoners, if he chooses. Some inmates learn new skills like painting. He can write and receive letters, make limited phone calls for 25 cents a minute, and it is possible he will have access to email, although his messages can be monitored.
I already know that some Trial Balloon readers would be untroubled by the e-mail limit, the TV limit, and no access to the internet. And the idea that you could get a lot of reading done is ... well ... an intriguing perk, if you are a bookish sort.
But remember, you're carrying a lot of guilt around, or at least you say you are. Can a book list express genuine regret? What do you read? Escapist literature, understanding that true escape is impossible? And why should a guy who bilked so many of their life savings be allowed even the brief mental release of a good book when there are so many bad ones to deepen his suffering?
Maybe the court should mandate a reading list chock full of scolding, finger-wagging moralists. Tales of the unjustly fleeced? The bleakest, most boring books ever written?
The ideal punishment would be to saddle the prisoner with volumes that read like a sledge hammer breaks boulders - slowly, with lots of dust and pain.
A long time ago I struggled with the sheer magnitude of Moby Dick, but if I had 150 years' worth of empty afternoons, a nice cement floor to sit on and some lukewarm water to sip from a dented tin cup, perhaps I could find a bit of enjoyment in Melville's wordy tale. Or, by the time I got done, I might feel that I had suffered for my crimes.
How about you? What's in your Federal Prison Activity Bag?