Controlled movements. Daily lockdowns. Constant surveillance.
Michael Cohen will be stripped of most of his liberties when he enters the US prison system in May after pleading guilty to financial crimes, campaign violations and lying to congress. And yet the president’s former attorney says his stint in jail could freeing, telling a federal judge presiding over his case that he had lived in a “personal and mental incarceration” while working for Donald Trump.
Cohen will likely serve his three-year sentence at the FCI Otisville after US district judge William Pauley said he would recommend the prison for him to the Bureau of Prisons – which determines where a prisoner will be held – in court last year.
Considered one of “America’s 10 cushiest prisons” by Forbes Magazine, FCI Otisville is a medium-security correctional institution boasting basketball and tennis courts, a baseball field and an alternate, minimum-security satellite camp.
But the experience won’t be a walk in the park for Cohen, who previously lived in an apartment at Trump World Tower that sold for $3.3m (£2.5m) in 2017: an FCI Otisville inmate handbook seen by The Independent describes a daily schedule for prisoners filled with severe restrictions, from just 10 minutes an hour to walk about freely and a maximum of 12 visitations per month.
For 10 minutes out of every hour in the day, Cohen will be allowed to adhere to a policy called “controlled movement”.
The policy allows inmates to move about somewhat freely through certain areas of the prison. “During the 10 minute period of controlled movement, you may move from one area of the institution to another without a pass or staff escort,” the guidelines read.
The controlled movement period will be announced every single hour of the day, typically at the half hour mark.
After a comprehensive “admission and orientation” programme that includes a medical screening, Cohen, like any other inmate, will be assigned a job.
“This is a community and although you did not choose to be here, you are expected to respect the rights of others, both fellow inmates and staff,” the guidelines read. “We understand that this is a time of special stress for you and the most helpful thing that we can do is to facilitate your participation in the criminal justice system process.”
Cohen will be forced to oblige by strict sanitation and work duties beginning at 6am every day.
He will also be forced to participate in counts – where prisoners are checked for absences from within their units – at midnight, 3am, 5am, 4pm and 10pm on weekdays, as well as 10am on weekends. Inmates are required to stand up for all evening counts.
All prisoners must remain in their units during daily counts, “keeping all noise to a minimum”, according to the guidelines. “Interference with the count may result in disciplinary action.”
More often than not, Cohen will be speaking with his correctional counsellor rather than his family, friends or daughter. Inmates are afforded just 12 visit points per month, while they are encouraged to speak with their counsellors “regularly” so they “may solve problems and answer questions with little delay”.
Visit points are spent by inmates each time they receive a guest to the prison: whereas a single visit typically counts as one point on weekdays, weekend and holiday visits cost two points each.
While lights must be turned off by 11.30pm, the daily lockdown normally goes into effect by 9.45pm, meaning Cohen must be in his unit by that time.
Cohen will join nearly 840 inmates at the correctional institution if he is sent to FCI Otisville. The men held at the New York prison have access to cardio equipment, weights, a handball court and areas to run and walk, and can enjoy games of bocce and horseshoes.