Yoga, jogging and etiquette courses: Ghislaine Maxwell’s new life as prisoner 02879-509

Ghislaine Maxwell has been making new friends and working in a prison library since being sent to Tallahassee minimum security prison last year. Her etiquette courses have apparently proven popular among inmates, writes Bevan Hurley

Monday 23 January 2023 15:56 GMT
(Getty/Alamy/The Independent)

As the daughter of a of a flamboyant and wealthy British media tycoon, Ghislaine Maxwell was taught the importance of comporting oneself properly from a young age.

Poise, posture and correct pronunciation were pillars of the 61-year-old’s strict upbringing under her domineering father Robert Maxwell, according to several biographies and documentaries about the Maxwell family.

Now, she’s reportedly passing those lessons on to inmates at Tallahassee Federal Correctional Institution, where she is serving a 20-year sentence for child abuse and sex-trafficking in the service of her former boyfriend Jeffrey Epstein.

“Taught by Mrs Maxwell this course teaches the three principles of etiquette — focusing on respect, consideration and honesty,” a course description posted to the wall at the Florida prison states, according to a Daily Mail report this week.

Maxwell instructs her fellow criminals on how to “maintain high moral standards”, how to dress, talk and prepare for a job interview in twice weekly courses. Maxwell, a fitness buff, has has also been holding yoga classes.

In June 2022, Maxwell was sentenced to 20 years in prison and fined $750,000 for helping sex offender and billionaire financier Jeffrey Epstein abuse teenage girls.

Maxwell will be 75 years old by the time she is eligible for release in mid-2037.

Prisoner 02879-509

Tallahassee FCI, a minimum-security prison on the eastern outskirts of the Florida state capital, is home to just over 800 female inmates.

The complex is surrounded by razor wires and cameras, with a stately administration block in the centre.

Inmates sleep in dormitory-style accommodation that house around 100 per room in bunk beds. The ‘Housing Units’ each have their own dining, shower and toilet areas, according to a handbook published by the Bureau of Prisons.

According to the Zoukis Consulting Group, inmates normally deemed at high-risk of attack such as paedophiles and informants are able to mix freely with Tallahassee’s general prison population.

“Everybody can walk, even women who killed their children or other people’s children. Nobody cares,” an inmate told the prison consulting firm.

Tallahassee has a reputation for offering a broad range of arts classes and sports. The handbook sets out how prisoners can choose to paint, do pottery, make ceramics, or play softball, basketball and volleyball.

Musical instruments are available to play in recreation areas. If the weather is “inclement”, or under 50F (10C), prisoners can play cards and other board games inside.

Ghislaine Maxwell is serving her 20 year sentence at the Tallahassee Federal Correctional Institution in Florida (US Bureau of Prisons)

The prison also offers pilates and movies, and has an inmate talent show.

Prisoners must adhere to a dress code of khaki pants and shirt and “authorised shoes”, and are given work assignments.

Maxwell has been putting in six hour shifts at the prison library, according to the Mail, where her book recommendations have apparently made her popular with other inmates.

Inmates are allowed to marry, exchange post with media, and receive payments via PayPal to their prison account.

Maxwell has been spotted doing laps of the prison’s 400m running track, where paparazzi photographers snapped her jogging in November.

As part of her etiquette classes, Maxwell reportedly teaches feminism and women’s empowerment courses, holding up her former friend Hillary Clinton as an example.

According to the Mail, her course has proven so popular that it’s being offered in Spanish, with a Colombian inmate translating.

The course forms part of the First Step Act, where incarcerated people who show signs of rehabilitation and successfully pass courses such as this one can shave time off the length of their sentence.

Ghislaine Maxwell and Jeffrey Epstein on his private jet. He died while awaiting a child sex-trafficking trial in 2019 (Channel 4)

Ms Maxwell explained why she wanted to help other inmates in her first prison interview with Israeli journalist Daphne Barak in October for an upcoming Paramount+ documentary.

"There are many people here who don't speak any English. There are people here who are indigent. There are people here who are not educated. I mean, there are many people here who don't even have a TV,” she said, in an excerpt of the interview which ran on CBS News.

“So I look at it as an opportunity whilst I'm here to use whatever abilities I have to help those other people who have less than I do. Because by comparison, I have a lot. I have, you know, much more because I'm educated, and I use the skills that I have to help them. And honestly, it's very rewarding.”

‘I don’t believe it’s real for a second’

Maxwell also claimed that an infamous 2001 photograph of herself, Prince Andrew, and a 17-year-old Virginia Giuffre had been faked.

“I don’t believe it’s real for a second,” she told Ms Barak in an interview to be broadcast on TalkTV on 23 January.

Prince Andrew, who paid a multi-million dollar settlement to Giuffre to settle a civil sexual assault lawsuit, has also questioned the authenticity of the photo.

He is reportedly looking into overturning the settlement.

During her prison interview, Maxwell also claimed that she was blind to her Epstein’s “evil”.

“Clearly my association and the fact that I worked for him and spent time with him and knew him has devastated my life and hurt many people that I’ve loved and hold dear around me,” she tells Ms Barak.

“I didn’t know that he was so awful. I mean, obviously now, looking back with hindsight, of course.

“But at the time, I mean he had lots of friends. He was friendly with just about everybody you could imagine. There was no reason to imagine that he was someone who was capable of evil.”

Maxwell’s new friends

Maxwell reportedly spends some of her free time with Linda Morrow, who helped her cosmetic surgeon husband Peter issue $44m worth of fraudulent bills to insurers for unnecessary procedures, according to the Mail.

Morrow, from Coachella Valley in California, fled to Israel along with her husband after pleading guilty to the insurance fraud, according to the Department of Justice.

She was extradited back to the US in 2019 and sentenced to eight years in prison in 2022, with judge Josephine L Staton stating that her “greed knew no bounds”.

Ghislaine Maxwell with Jeffrey Epstein (PA Media)

Maxwell has also reportedly been spending time with Narcy Novack, who was convicted in 2012 of hiring hitmen to murder her wealthy husband Ben and his mother in 2009.

Novack is serving a life sentence without the chance of parole for the killings, which a judge described as having been carried out due to “jealousy, retribution and greed”, the New York Post reported.

Novack is the head orderly for her unit and someone who “commands respect” among other prisoners, according to the Mail.

Other notable former prisoners include Colleen LaRose, also known as Jihadi Jane, who was sentenced to 10 years for providing support to terrorists in 2014. She was released in 2018.

Chelsea Gerlach, a member of the radical Earth Liberation Front environmental group, served six years in the prison for her role in a “six-year reign of attacks on government, business and research facilities,” according to the Denver Post.

‘Exaggerated’ claims of mistreatment

Maxwell was sent to Tallahassee, in the Florida Panhandle, in July, against her own wishes and over the recommendations of her sentencing judge.

From her arrest in July 2020 until her sentencing two years later, Maxwell was confined to a 9ft by 7ft cell at the Metropolitan Detention Center in New York.

She filed more than 100 complaints alleging she had been subjected to excessive body-cavity searches, invasive shower surveillance, and been left with a black eye after being assaulted by a prison guard.

These claims were “exaggerated” and a dishonest attempt to deflect blame, Judge Alison Nathan said at her June 2022 sentencing.

Bobbi Sternheim addresses reporters after Ghislaine Maxwell was sentenced to 20 years in prison (Bevan Hurley/The Independent)

Maxwell’s attorneys had requested that she serve her time at FCI Danbury, a low security prison in Connecticut that inspired Netflix’s Orange Is The New Black.

According to Bureau of Prison guidelines, the decision on where to house an offender is based on several factors such as proximity to family and type of offending.

In Maxwell’s case, her high profile and her safety concerns given the notoriety of being convicted of child sex offences, saw authorities deem Tallahassee the best option.

Maxwell is no stranger to dishing out instructions on how to behave.

During her 2021 trial for child sex-trafficking, staff at Epstein’s Palm Beach mansion testified that she handed out a “degrading” 58-page Household Manual on how they should act on the job.

“See nothing, hear nothing, say nothing, except to answer a question directed to you,” the manual instructed staff.

Epstein died by suicide in the Metropolitan Detention Centre while awaiting trial for sex trafficking in August 2019.

This article was amended on January 13 to remove a reference to Ms Maxwell being the daughter of a British noble. Robert Maxwell was not a member of the British nobility.

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