Defiant Conrad Black starts life as a prisoner

Defiant and bombastic to the last, Conrad Black hurled Churchillian rhetoric at his accusers yesterday before bidding farewell to his wife, Barbara Amiel, and surrendering to authorities at the largest penitentiary in the United States.

"They will have their fleeting moment of brutish triumph," the former press baron said, but added: "It's no real triumph for them; it's a complete travesty of justice. It doesn't bother me because it won't last long."

As he began his six-and-a half year sentence at the Coleman Correctional centre, near Orlando, Florida, inmate 18330-424 was facing up to the grim reality and mind-numbing monotony of prison life.

However sugar-coated the initiation process, Black will have to endure a bleak and rigid regime. The prison rules, laid out at a mandatory "admission and orientation programme" for new inmates, will mean a life marked by the noise of clanging doors, endless headcounts and queues. The quality of the food will be poor and there is always the risk of bullying by other inmates.

"At any time, anything can go wrong," said one of Black's fellow prisoners, Roger Grace, who is serving 12 years for his role in a cocaine deal.

Black's lawyers are filing an appeal, which will be heard in June. If it fails, he will have to serve 85 per cent of his sentence before parole; if he succeeds, he could be out after serving little more than three months.

The Orlando jail's Inmate Information Handbook encourages new prisoners to look on the bright side of life. "Our goal is to minimise the negative experiences you have during incarceration and provide opportunities for personal growth and development," the handbook says. "Good luck during your stay at Coleman."

But that could be hard for the man once known for his flamboyant lifestyle and extravagant spending habits. Last night, Black was due to make his first stop at Coleman's receiving and discharge department, where he will be issued with prison shirts, trousers, underwear and socks, in sets of four which must be worn for at least six months. He will also get a single pair of boots for every year he serves.

Like anyone else doing time, his clothing will have a tag with his inmate number and an identification card for access to a prison shop. There, he will have the opportunity to pick and choose between sweets, deodorants and board games.

Black remains optimistic that his conviction will be reversed on appeal. He spoke at length to Canada's Financial Post newspaper before surrendering yesterday afternoon, comparing himself to Martha Stewart, the entrepreneurial domestic guru who emerged from her time in prison to resume her iconic role in US life.

"It's not the least bit stigmatising," he said breezily. "This bourgeois theory that it's a frightful blotting of the ledger is a lot of nonsense. It didn't happen to Martha Stewart. And besides, I am innocent. If I'd actually done anything illegal, I wouldn't contest it, I would repent it."

In this, Black has a point, as more than one out of every 100 American adults is now in prison, a total of 2.3 million people. But even low-security prisons such as Coleman can be menacing and a celebrity inmate like Black could attract trouble. The facility insists that every inmate must have a job, whether it be mopping floors or teaching other inmates. They are paid between 16 cents and a dollar (8p and 50p) an hour, depending on the job. Black will have to work day shifts as well as evening, weekend and holiday rotas.

As he headed to jail, Black said he was not bothered in the slightest by the prospect of joining convicted drug dealers and other criminals inside: "This is not a scary place. There's no violence there. I expect it to be somewhat boring. It's a hell of a way to lose weight, but I'll lose weight."

What he will immediately lose is his privacy; especially if he is assigned to a three-man cubicle. But there will one perk: he will get a shower every day, a privilege granted only at low-security prisons.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
The two faces revealed by the ultraviolet light
newsScholars left shaken after shining ultraviolet light on 500-year-old Welsh manuscript
News
Rosamund Pike played Bond girld Miranda Frost, who died in Die Another Day (PA)
news
Arts and Entertainment
books
News
newsHow do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? With people like this
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: In House Counsel - Contracts

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This leading supplier of compliance software a...

Recruitment Genius: Associate System Engineer

£24000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Associate System Engineer r...

Recruitment Genius: Executive Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: An Executive Assistant is required to join a l...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager - B2B, Corporate - City, London

£45000 - £50000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?
How Tansy Davies turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

How a composer turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

Tansy Davies makes her operatic debut with a work about the attack on the Twin Towers. Despite the topic, she says it is a life-affirming piece
11 best bedside tables

11 best bedside tables

It could be the first thing you see in the morning, so make it work for you. We find night stands, tables and cabinets to wake up to
Italy vs England player ratings: Did Andros Townsend's goal see him beat Harry Kane and Wayne Rooney to top marks?

Italy vs England player ratings

Did Townsend's goal see him beat Kane and Rooney to top marks?
Danny Higginbotham: An underdog's tale of making the most of it

An underdog's tale of making the most of it

Danny Higginbotham on being let go by Manchester United, annoying Gordon Strachan, utilising his talents to the full at Stoke and plunging into the world of analysis
Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police

Steve Bunce: Inside Boxing

Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police
No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat