It was a dark day in late December when my pretrial officer called to inform me I’d be serving my year in prison at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in downtown Manhattan. I was hoping for Danbury or Otisville, both much better places to do your bid. But I drew the deuce of clubs: MCC, a prison so bad that the Federal Bureau of Prisons has just decided to shut it down.
Upon discovering my designation, I looked up MCC online and immediately found an article describing the prison as the Guantanamo Bay of New York. Not a good sign. The reporter, and many ex-inmates, asserted that the prison was roach and rodent-infested. I live in the East Village of New York so I know about roaches and mice — but not in the size and numbers that I saw at MCC upon arrival.
Inmates’ entire stashes of pistachio nuts and cereal disintegrated in the middle of the night, so hungry and numerous were the mice. We’d wet and wad up toilet paper to stuff the holes in our lockers — all in a vain attempt at keeping the rodents away from our commissary food. This wasn’t one mouse at a time; whole families routinely skittered through my cell.
When it came to roaches, they were of the large variety (water bugs) almost exclusively. I gained the admiration of my drug and gun-slinging bunky for my expert aim slinging a peanut butter jar at the critters from the upper bunk.
If infestations were all that was wrong with MCC, I can’t say that alone would merit the Bureau of Prisons closing it down. But there were other problems that could have been much more easily addressed and were not, like the almost complete lack of any kind of programs that might enable inmates to make an honest living once released.
My first bunky showed me some course paperwork dedicated to training inmates on obtaining a truck-driving license. I was interested; anything to pass my year constructively. But when I asked the head of the education department about enrolling, he was like a deer in the headlights. There was no course to go along with the paperwork about it.
After bunking with Paul Manafort and others, not to mention serving as a companion to Jeffrey Epstein, my last celly was a college graduate who opted to run the GED program to fulfill his work requirement. But to my knowledge, he never taught a class — and tutored just one inmate occasionally. Michael reported that the officer in charge of the GED program was only semi-literate herself.
And who could forget the night that the inmates in the Special Housing Unit decided to express their disdain for the living conditions they suffered by stuffing blankets in—and then flushing—their toilets? At 3 AM, our commodes began overflowing as if they had a life of their own. When the prisoners in other unaffected units started waking up in the morning and taking care of their biological needs, our toilets started spewing. Before it was over, I was looking at two inches of sewage in the cell from my view above.
Finally, the administration itself was a disaster. The warden didn’t even know not to leave Epstein alone. Inmates who were eligible for halfway-house privileges or home confinement were routinely kept locked up because the staff was some combination of overwhelmed and/or incompetent — and simply didn’t release inmates when the time came. I myself was kept in prison longer than the law dictated. And I can tell you that my not-ready-for-primetime case officer was not equal to the task of dispatching prisoners to their next stop in a timely fashion. I actually offered to help her for no pay just so that guys could get out when they were supposed to for halfway houses or home confinement. She turned me down, citing I wasn’t allowed to see other inmates’ paperwork.
The suicide tier had two eye-in-the-sky-type cameras so the officers could watch over the inmates who might take their own lives and the prisoners hired to talk with and keep an eye on them. But we knew one of the cameras didn’t work. Supposed suicide watchers would dash for the area the broken camera was supposed to cover to either sleep or pass drugs.
And speaking of drugs — and contraband — there was no shortage at MCC. K2, suboxone, liquor, marijuana, tobacco, and cellphones could all be had at a price. At one point, a gun was smuggled in.
I don’t know whether other federal facilities are as bad as MCC because thankfully, I’m not one of the inmates who’d done what I used to call “the grand tour” of recidivism. But I can tell you that MCC was a poorly run facility—and little more than a human warehouse for wayward souls.
When officers were brought in to evaluate the prison after Jeffrey’s suicide, some would confide that MCC was the worst prison they’d ever seen.
So good riddance and farewell to MCC. It was a shithole of the first order and an embarrassment to both the United States of America and the Federal Bureau of Prisons. My guess is nobody will miss the place. I sure won’t.