Jewish World Review March 5, 2004 / 12 Adar, 5764
Advice to Martha (just in case):
How white-collar criminals can survive in prison
White-collar criminals may not take incarceration well -- they're not exactly used to the hard life. David Novak once owned a small aviation firm, and after a series of unfortunate events in his life, wound up spending a year at the federal prison at Camp Eglin in Florida.
Novak recalls that when he was in Camp Eglin, there were a number of high-ranking regional politicians in prison, and they seemed to have a difficult transition into life in jail. "Generally what these people face is much more difficult because everybody on the compound knows who they are," says Novak.
"Certainly if Martha Stewart went to prison, every inmate and every staff member would know who she was and would probably try to get close to her, simply so that they could speak to their family about it."
It's a long way before Martha Stewart being convicted, if she is convicted at all. And her actually going to jail is not certain. But, if we vault that distance, what would Novak tell her was the most important thing to make the prison experience bearable?
Novak now consults white-collar offenders facing prison time and has written a book called "Downtime: A Guide to Federal Incarceration." He shared some tips with 'Countdown with Keith Olbermann':
1. Accept responsibility. "That's probably the most important piece of advice I would give Miss Stewart or any white-collar client. You placed yourself in this position. Acknowledge the fact that you're now a convicted criminal and do all you can, as much as possible, to blend into the inmate population."
2. Some common-sense advice: Don't whine, don't cut in line, don't touch anyone, don't rat on other prisoners, and don't buddy up to the staff.
3. Don't ask questions. "Each person has their own story and one of the things that's most important to any inmate is their own sense of privacy, their own sense of propriety. Most people haven't gone through what people like Martha Stewart has done in such a public forum. And one of the things they have control over is maintaining some control over their privacy, so that's why it's so important to let people bring up information about themselves, as opposed to querying them. "
Share your talents. "I would hope that if Miss Stewart found herself in prison she would be able to use some of the talents in a way to help fellow inmates."
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