At the federal prison camp for women in Danbury, Conn., where Martha Stewart may serve time, pickup trucks of armed guards are always circling. “Psychologically, you never feel safe,” a former inmate told the Washington Post. “Psychologically, you can always be brought down for some perceived something on the part of the guards.” The ex-inmate also cited “verbal violence” of “inmates just exploding out at each other. . . . There’s a lot of shouting and yelling.”
Violence is rare at Danbury and the 11 other women’s prison camps. Still, lawyer Karen Bond, a former inmate at the Lexington, Ky., prison camp, was assaulted by her bunkmate and three others and suffered a fractured shoulder, a concussion, and cuts and bruises all over her body. “Martha Stewart, you need to pay attention,” Bond says. “You’re not going to a white-collar prison where everyone’s genteel and cultured. There isn’t any ‘Club Fed.’ ”
The tennis courts of the federal prison camp at Eglin, Fla., helped create the image of “Club Fed.” There are no tennis courts in the prison system anymore. With more than 175,000 federal prisoners, crowding has changed the way prison space is used. “Prisons should not be comfortable settings and should not afford inmates unnecessary privileges,” says Daniel Dunne, a spokesman for the Federal Bureau of Prisons. “We’re concerned about the perceptions of inmates having inappropriate comforts.”
At Danbury, Stewart’s possible future home, there are 200 inmates. It has a history of housing high-profile white-collar convicts, from hotel magnate Leona Helmsley to G. Gordon Liddy and the Rev. Sun Myung Moon, back when it was a male facility. Now, 56 percent of the women are in for drug offenses. The average age is 38; the average sentence, four years. Most women, 56 percent, are white (about half of them Hispanic), with black inmates comprising 42 percent. To prevent factions from hardening, inmates are rotated among the sleeping areas.