Former U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown is expected at a Central Florida prison camp Monday to begin a five-year federal sentence for her part in a fraud scheme that helped end her long career.
Neither Brown nor the federal Bureau of Prisons have talked publicly about where the 12-term congresswoman will serve her time.
But the minimum-security women’s camp adjacent to Coleman Medium Federal Correctional Institution in Sumter County fits criteria prison officials would have considered when incarcerating Brown, a Democrat who lost reelection after she was indicted in 2016. Brown’s district included parts of Orlando.
Her arrival there is expected to draw heavy media attention, but beyond the first day, Brown will be part of a large corrections industry that is generally anonymous and filled with rules and limitations.
The all-female camp where she’ll be assigned, which listed 391 inmates as of Friday, is part of a 6,600-prisoner complex of buildings that includes low-, medium- and high-security lockups.
Everyone from a crooked judge and an abusive cop to the head of a Muslim charity prosecuted for funneling money to terrorism have served time in Coleman, as did Jacksonville’s first cocaine kingpin, Henry Manns.
The women’s camp hasn’t had the same profile as the big, tightly guarded institutions around it. But the reputation it has might give Brown some comfort.
“As far as camps go, Coleman is a good one,” an ex-inmate advised a woman waiting to report there over messages on the website prisontalk.com. “If you are planning on sending yourself some things it‘s really not necessary, Just make sur[e] you send yourself money before you get there so you can shop ASAP. I know it‘s scary but believe me it‘s not as bad as you may think.”
It is, however, still a prison camp. Federal camps are known for not having bars over windows and few if any fences, but they have lots of rules.
Prison-issued green pants and shirts (tucked in) are the required uniform except on weekends and holidays and after 4 p.m. Inmates are also issued prison belts and shoes or boots.
Prisoners can wear their own clothes in the housing unit, where they’re assigned a small cubicle which they’re responsible for keeping clean and orderly.
Beds in the cubicles have to be made and trash emptied by 7:30 a.m. Both should be ready for inspection anytime until 4 p.m., when there’s a headcount where inmates who aren’t at work are supposed to stand quiet by their cubicle entrance.
On weekdays, there are also headcounts at midnight, 3 a.m., 5 a.m. and 10 p.m. On weekends, there’s an added 10 a.m. count, where inmates have to stand like in the afternoons.
Prisoners are supposed to clean their floors daily and keep nothing under their beds except their shoes, which a prison manual says should be “neatly aligned.” Nothing is supposed to be hung or taped to any wall, although family photos and calendars can be pinned to a bulletin board above the desk in an inmate’s cubicle.
Inmates aren’t allowed to leave their housing units between 8:30 p.m. and 6:00 a.m. unless they’re summoned by a staff member. Lights are turned off at 10:30 p.m., when “quiet time” starts and inmates are forbidden to visit each other’s cubicles. Quiet time ends at 6 a.m. Lights turn on in common areas at 7 a.m.
Following rules like that can actually matter to the length of time a prisoner spends in custody. Federal inmates can be released after serving roughly 85 percent of their time if they’ve earned good conduct credit for the rest.
The 60 months Brown faces could drop to about 51 months — four years, three months — if she lives by the rules. That good conduct credit, called good time, can be shrunk because of rule violations, and prison administrators have pages of rules about how much credit to take away and when.
Brown, 71, will likely have some job to do soon after she arrives.
Camps often provide labor for more secure prisons, and every woman at Coleman’s camp is assigned work unless the prison’s medical department says she’s not physically able.
A lot of those jobs run from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., but there are also night shifts for some tasks. Brown’s trial included testimony about the long hours she dedicated to her work in Congress, so it would be something new if she were found simply unable to work.
While everyone eats meals in the camp cafeteria, inmates can buy food and other items once there’s money in their commissary account. Spam, fish steaks and bacon are some of the choices from a four-day-a-week commissary that also sells snacks, toiletries, shower shoes, watches and a few electronics.
Brown could buy a calculator, a curling iron or some sunglasses at the commissary. She could buy a radio or an MP3 player too, but she’d have to buy headphones, which are required at all times.
Each inmate is allowed up to $275 in purchases for the month, if there’s money in the account.
Brown is under court order to report to prison Monday by noon.