Skilling Aims For Butner, “Crown Jewel” Of U.S. Prison System


The North Carolina prison where former Enron CEO Jeff Skilling has asked to serve his sentence is considered “the crown jewel” of the federal prison system by one expert but is not the “Club Fed” some might imagine, reports the Houston Chronicle. The Butner Federal Correctional Complex, 45 minutes northeast of Durham, is sought by convicts in the know because of the quality of the facilities and staff, said Alan Ellis, a specialist in sentencing and placement of white-collar criminals and author of a guidebook on prisons. Minimum-, low- and medium-security facilities at Butner in some ways resemble a college campus behind barbed wire. The medical facility at Butner is highly regarded.

There are about 3,600 inmates at Butner, including former U.S. Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham, who is serving time for accepting bribes, and former Navy intelligence analyst Jonathan Pollard, who is serving a life sentence for leaking secrets to the Israeli government. White-collar criminals often find themselves sharing living and dining quarters with criminals with violent pasts. “As one Bureau of Prisons staffer put it to me, in low security you get punched and in medium you get knifed,” Ellis said. Judge Simeon Lake will request that the U.S. Bureau of Prisons assign Skilling to Butner, as his defense team asked, but it’s up to prison officials as to where he will go.


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