Article Courtesy of The
By Jason Ruiter
Published February 2, 2018
Four days after the June 2016 Pulse nightclub
shooting in Orlando, then-U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown descended the stairs
of Air Force One alongside President Barack Obama.
A month later, Brown cast her vote as a superdelegate for Hillary
Clinton’s nomination for president.
But the days of
hobnobbing with the powerful are over for the 71-year-old
Jacksonville Democrat, whose fall from grace was complete
Monday when she emerged from a limousine-style minibus at
the federal prison in Sumter County to begin serving a
five-year sentence for fraud and other crimes.
Brown, who served 24 years in Congress before her defeat in
2016, was sentenced last month for using about $800,000
meant for poor students to pay for Bahama vacations and a
Beyoncé concert and to pad her own bank accounts.
At the Coleman federal correctional complex — the nation’s
largest with more than 6,600 prisoners — she will spend her
days at the same complex that houses notorious criminals
such as convicted gangster James “Whitey” Bulger, 88, who
spent 16 years as one of the country’s most wanted
fugitives, and Texas tycoon Robert Allen Stanford, 67,
convicted of running a $7 billion Ponzi scheme.
Bishop Kelvin Cobaris, lead pastor and founder of The Impact
Church in Orlando and Brown’s spiritual adviser, said she
was accompanied by family to the prison about 50 miles
northwest of downtown Orlando.
Ex-congresswoman Corrine Brown walks into Federal
Court accompanied by pastor Rudolph McKissick, Sr. Brown appeared in
Federal Court to be sentenced on fraud charges Dec. 4, 2017.
“I saw emotion. I didn’t see nervousness or fear,”
Cobaris told TV reporters. “She was just ready to go and face what she
needed to face.”
The low-security prison camp is separate from the rest of the
correctional complex that has three security levels — high, medium and
There are no walls or fences at camps, and most inmates are serving five
to 10 years for nonviolent crimes, said Larry Levine, director of Wall
Street Prison Consultants, which helps incoming prisoners adjust to
their new confinement.
Because doors are often not locked, the inmates are subjected to
multiple headcounts day and night.
Levine, who did not work with Brown, said he is certain inmates will be
wary of their new politically connected prisoner.
“I was locked up with politicians — they have entitlement issues; they
think they’re entitled to things, and people resent that,” he said.
“They’re going to think she’s rich — she can claim she doesn’t have any
Brown will wake at 6 a.m. on weekdays to wait in line for the bathroom
and then for breakfast. Afterward, she will tidy her room and the small
locker “that is her existence,” where she keeps all her possessions,
said Levine of Los Angeles.
Ex-congresswoman Corrine Brown walks into Federal Court accompanied by
pastor Rudolph McKissick, Sr. Brown appeared in Federal Court to be
sentenced on fraud charges Dec. 4, 2017 (Bob Mack/The Florida
Times-Union via AP)
Brown likely will do clerical or janitorial work during her days at the
prison camp, where she will be held with 391 other female inmates, he
“When they get high-profile inmates like her, they like to treat them
like [expletive],” said Levine, who did time at 11 prisons over 10 years
for racketeering and narcotics traffic, among other charges. “Seriously,
she’s got a rough road ahead of her.”
Brown will work until 10 a.m. before a two-hour lunch break, after which
she will resume work until about 4 p.m. Prison staff will assign her to
one of the jobs in cooking, maintenance, cleaning or clerical work.
Those first 30 days for Brown will be spent living in the multipurpose
room, or “fishbowl,” said Holli Coulman, a consultant at Wall Street
Prison Consultants who served 21 months for wire fraud.
“She won’t yet be moved to what we call the ‘condos,’ where she will be
assigned to a two- or four-woman room,” Coulman said. “She will have a
job and be expected to work.”
The former congresswoman’s chief of staff, Ronnie Simmons, began a
four-year sentence for his conviction on similar charges in the same
case this month in Maryland.
In 1992, Brown and two others became the first African Americans from
Florida elected to Congress since Reconstruction. Her sprawling
250-mile-long north-south district spanned 14 counties, including
portions of Orange, Seminole, Lake and Volusia.
She unsuccessfully challenged a new map approved by the Florida Supreme
Court that shifted it to an east-west district, stretching from
Tallahassee to Jacksonville, on grounds that it violated the Voting
Rights Act by reducing the black voting-age population from 50 percent
to 45 percent. She was defeated in the 2016 primary by former state Sen.
Al Lawson, who went on to win in the general election.
During her time in office, Brown worked to secure local spending through
earmarked bills and met with Justice Department officials to investigate
the 2012 Trayvon Martin shooting in Sanford, saying the 17-year-old’s
death was a hate crime.
Brown could be released on good behavior after serving four years and
three months, Levine said. She is appealing her conviction and sought to
remain free on bond during that process, but U.S. District Judge Timothy
Corrigan denied her request.
At sentencing, he said the actions of Brown and Simmons were a “crime
born out of entitlement and greed committed to ensure a lifestyle that
was beyond their means.”