Bernie Behind Bars: Madoff’s Plush Prison Life

gal-tease-rich-behaving-badly
Madoff and other white-collar prisoners

Wondering how poor Bernie Madoff is faring in prison? New York Magazine's Steve Fishman talked to dozens of current and former inmates at the Butner Federal Correctional Complex in North Carolina, who described an unrepentant Madoff who signs autographs and boasts of his fraud.

On one occasion at the prison, known as “Camp Fluffy,” Madoff was being badgered by a fellow inmate about his crimes, reports Fishman. “F--k my victims,” Madoff reportedly said. “I carried them for 20 years, and now I’m doing 150 years.” He told other inmates that his only crime was taking money from those who were "rich and greedy and wanted more."

Far from vilifying Madoff for his arrogant views, many of his fellow prisoners idolize him; one even called him a hero. Others make do with seeking autographs (which he rarely grants, for fear they'll be sold on eBay) and asking his financial advice. A third, very optimistic, group believes he must have a stash somewhere—and that he might give it up if they ask nicely. 

Madoff’s lifestyle, while not quite as luxurious as the one he enjoyed before, is in keeping with his stature. He has hired an inmate to do his laundry for $8 per month, and he enjoys meals of macaroni and cheese with Diet Coke. He reads John Grisham and Dean Koontz novels.

The mystery of whether, as The Wall Street Journal reported in March, Madoff was beaten up last December isn't solved. Inmates say they doubt it. But many point out that it would be in his interest to deny a fight. 

Madoff reportedly misses his wife and sons. And it is not lost on him that he will die in prison. When an inmate teased him about getting in shape, Madoff is said to have responded, “I got 150 years and I’m 71 ... I’m not worried about getting out of shape.”

Reached by telephone today, one of Madoff's victims, who did not want to be named because, she says, she wants to put the incident behind her, tells NEWSWEEK she wasn't particularly angry at his statements or his relatively lavish lifestyle. 

She says she wasn’t surprised by any of the revelations in the article. "I can't imagine what kind of a person he really was anyway, how he could have lived that double life for so long." Of his prison career and its successes, she adds that "he was always very divorced from the world anyway."

The victim does, however, caution any inmates against picking a fight with Madoff. She once met with him to request some changes to her account he did not want to make. "If you upset him," she explains, "he had a very bad temper that I can only describe as dark. He became very, very angry when I asked [to make the account changes] and told me that if I pressed him he would no longer handle any of my money. It made the hair on the back of my neck stand up, and that doesn't happen very often."

Join the Discussion