In Depth

Inside FCI Tallahassee: the low-security prison where Ghislaine Maxwell can ‘teach yoga and bake’

Former socialite convicted of trafficking underage girls not eligible for release until 2037

Ghislaine Maxwell has been moved to a low-security prison in Florida where she can take part in yoga classes and try her hand at baking while she sees out the remainder of her sentence.

The former socialite was found guilty of recruiting and trafficking underage girls for disgraced billionaire Jeffrey Epstein last December and sentenced to 20 years in prison.

According to the Bureau of Prisons, Maxwell has been moved to Federal Correctional Institution (FCI) Tallahassee, a low-security, all-female prison in Florida’s capital, near where the majority of her crimes took place.

The decision went against the wishes of her lawyers, who had requested that she serve her sentence at FCI Danbury in Connecticut, a minimum-security prison that was the inspiration for the hit Netflix series Orange is the New Black. The Guardian said experts had described the jail as being “‘like Disneyland’ compared with the Brooklyn institution” where Maxwell has been held since her arrest in July 2020.

The Metro said the socialite “hated her time at the notoriously tough” Metropolitan Detention Center (MDC) in Brooklyn, where Epstein was found dead in his cell in August 2019 while awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges.

The Times reported that the 60-year-old, “who lived a life of luxury before her arrest, said she shared her tiny cell with rats, was served food infested with maggots and was abused by guards”. Her lawyers repeatedly complained she was being held in solitary confinement and her family even filed a complaint with the United Nations over her treatment.

Judge Alison Nathan, who presided over Maxwell’s case, had supported her lawyers’ request to the Bureau of Prisons for Maxwell to be sent to FCI Danbury, “known as ‘Club Fed’ because of its amiable conditions”, said The Telegraph.

“It is not clear why the law enforcement agency went against the Judge’s decision”, added the paper.

What is life in FCI Tallahassee like?

The prison opened in 1938 with the capacity to house 755 female-only prisoners. Inmates at FCI Tallahassee are issued with an inmate identification card which must be worn at all times, and woken at 6am every day.

Each prisoner shares a cell with one other person and staff may search cells at any time for contraband or stolen property. The only approved uniform is khaki pants, khaki shirt, knickers, bra, socks and authorised shoes.

Maxwell will be allowed to wear a plain wedding band, “even though her marriage to former tech entrepreneur Scott Borgerson is over and they are understood to be divorcing”, said The Metro.

According to a prison consulting firm, Zoukis Consulting Group, inmates can take part in yoga, a talent show and watch movies, while a prospectus for the facility shows detainees playing sports like softball, basketball and volleyball. They are also able to try hobbies like painting, leather-work, art and ceramics.

The list of apprenticeships available for Maxwell includes electrician, baker, horticulturist, plumber and cosmetologist, “a pursuit which may include massages”, noted the Daily Mail in reference to the way she and Epstein would exploit underage girls.

The paper said that while at the MDC, Maxwell “had already impressed other inmates by teaching them yoga and English [and] she will likely continue to do so in her new prison”. She will also be able to continue learning Russian, a skill she took up after her arrest.

She will have plenty of time to become fluent as the Bureau of Prisons website indicates Maxwell will not be eligible for release until 17 July 2037.

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