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Ghislaine Maxwell’s prison won’t be like the ‘Camp Cupcake’ where Martha Stewart served her sentence

December 30, 2021, 3:52 PM UTC

Ghislaine Maxwell’s high-society days are over as she faces years in a prison that’s likely to be harsher than the so-called “Camp Cupcake” prison where Martha Stewart served.

Maxwell, the socialite ex-girlfriend of disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein, was convicted Wednesday on five counts tied to sexual abuse, including the most serious charge of sex-trafficking of a minor, which carries a maximum sentence of 40 years.

Because she was convicted of sex crimes, Maxwell won’t be assigned to a minimum-security prison camp like the one in Alderson, West Virginia, that housed Stewart, with its dormitory-style housing and limited fencing, according to prison consultant Justin Paperny. Alderson has been called “Camp Cupcake” by critics who fault it for its cushy conditions and activities that include “progressive relaxation.”

If Maxwell is given closer to the high end of what she faces she’ll likely end up in a medium-security prison, according to Paperny, who runs White Collar Advice, which advises clients facing prison.

“She is probably in shock now and will be for some time,” said Ingrid Lederhaas-Okun, a former executive at Tiffany & Co. who spent 10 months at Alderson after admitting to stealing from the company. “With proper counseling she can make her sentence productive if she focuses on giving back, meaning helping others and taking full responsibility for her actions.”

Maxwell’s attorney said late Wednesday that she will appeal the verdict. Maxwell’s trial judge didn’t set a sentencing date for the socialite, who still faces a trial on two perjury counts. That trial hasn’t yet been scheduled.

The decision where to house Maxwell will be up to the federal Bureau of Prisons. The bureau doesn’t comment on individual cases, but factors considered in assigning inmates include the “security and supervision the inmate requires, any medical or programming needs, separation and security measures to ensure the inmates protection, and other considerations including proximity to an individual’s release residence,” according to spokesman Donald Murphy.

Inmates in higher-security facilities are generally confined to cells rather than rooms and endure more intense security procedures. Those prisons tend to house people who are convicted of more serious crimes, have longer prison sentences and are more prone to violence.

Still, anywhere she goes will likely be an upgrade from the Brooklyn federal lockup where she’s been held since being charged in July 2020 with helping Epstein sexually abuse underage girls. Prior to her conviction, Maxwell, the daughter of the British media tycoon Robert Maxwell, made numerous complaints about her conditions at the Metropolitan Detention Center—a jail that federal investigators have deemed among the worst in the U.S. Bureau of Prisons System.

“She’s enduring arguably the worst and filthiest prison in the country,” said Paperny. “Wherever she serves her time will feel like Disneyland compared to where she is right now.”

It’s all been a startling turn for Maxwell, who was arrested at a million-dollar 156-acre estate in New Hampshire, and owned a New York City townhouse that sold in 2016 for about $15 million, as well as a London home in Belgravia.

Federal investigators found that MDC prisoners have been beaten, raped and held in inhumane conditions. Maxwell has complained about being held in solitary confinement, under 24-hour surveillance, and being awakened every few hours each night. She said conditions left her exhausted and unable to properly help prepare her defense. 

Of the 157,500 inmates currently in the federal prison system, fewer than 11,000—around 7%—are women, according to the Bureau of Prisons. Of its 122 prison facilities in the U.S., only 29 house women, and 11 of those are short-term lockups like the MDC where Maxwell was held for trial.

Her future home will be based on the classification she receives from federal prison officials, said Jack Donson, a prison consultant who worked for the Bureau of Prisons for more than 23 years. That will depend, in part, on the length of her sentence and a determination by prison authorities whether Maxwell, who has U.S., U.K., and French citizenship, presents a risk to escape.

If Maxwell is given a more lenient sentence, she may be headed to the low-security federal prison in Danbury, Connecticut known for housing “Orange is the New Black” author Piper Kerman and reality television star Teresa Giudice, said Paperny. 

But Donson said the Bureau will likely assign a famous convict like Maxwell to a secure facility away from a major city, making the Danbury prison, not far from New York, less likely. 

“They’re never going to put her near New York or anywhere you’re going to have reporters camping out on the road,” he said.

The differences between a minimum security camp and low-security federal correctional institution, or FCI, can be dramatic, said Larry Levine, founder of Wall Street Prison Consultants, who served more than 10 years in federal prison and now advises convicted criminals on how to survive incarceration.

Camps often have a relatively high proportion of non-violent white-collar offenders and violence is rare. Violence is more likely in FCIs, which can house bank robbers, drug dealers and people convicted of sex crimes. So while camps don’t have perimeter fences or armed security, FCIs have two secure barbed wire fences with roving, armed security, he said. The doors to camp housing unit doors are never locked, a contrast to FCIs, where inmates are locked in at night. 

Several consultants said Maxwell’s notoriety and the nature of her crime—helping Epstein victimize teenage girls—may make her a target.

“If she is still in denial that she did not contribute to the actions taken by herself and Mr. Epstein, she will be a pariah both inside and outside of prison,” said Lederhaas-Okun, who consults for White Collar Advice.

Maxwell’s education, wealth and former jet-setting lifestyle will set her apart from most inmates, she said.

While Maxwell will have an advantage because of her access to cash for food, clothing, makeup and running shoes that other inmates can’t afford, this “can cause jealously in others,” Lederhaas-Okun said.

Maxwell will likely be assigned a job, where she’ll make a paltry 12 to 14 cents an hour. “Do it and don’t complain,” Lederhaas-Okun advised. “The worst thing she could do is whine about her situation.”

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