What would jail be like for Donald Trump?

Imprisoning a former president would involve major planning, including a workaround for his Secret Service detail, as well as accommodations for where he might be held and what he might eat and wear

James Liddell
Tuesday 28 May 2024 15:35 BST
Related video: Donald Trump demands hush money case be ‘terminated right now’

As Donald Trump’s hush money trial draws to a close after five weeks of testimony, the former president is facing a daunting possibility: that he could see the inside of a jail cell.

Mr Trump is charged with 34 counts of falsifying business records to conceal a $130,000 payment to porn star Stormy Daniels before the 2016 presidential election, to ensure her silence about an alleged sexual encounter in 2006.

Mr Trump denies both the liaison and the charges against him.

With the jury set to begin its deliberations in a matter of days, Mr Trump could soon his learn his fate.

If convicted, he could face up to four years in prison on each of the 34 Class E felony counts.

But what would his imprisonment look like?

Jailing an ex-commander-in-chief would involve major planning, requiring a workaround for his Secret Service detail as well as plans for where he might be held and what he might eat.

A mere 11 miles from Manhattan’s criminal courthouse lies the infamous Rikers Island: a sprawling 413-acre penitentiary with a reputation for violence and unsanitary conditions.

New York City Mayor Eric Adams said earlier this month that Rikers is “ready” to receive Mr Trump, if required.

Trump speaks to reporters outside the courtroom on Tuesday 7 May, flanked by his attorney Todd Blanche
Trump speaks to reporters outside the courtroom on Tuesday 7 May, flanked by his attorney Todd Blanche (Getty)

While experts predict either could be a feasible option, Martin Horn, the former commissioner of the New York City Department of Correction (NYCD), said it is likely he would initially be sent to a holding pen behind the court.

“I suspect that the first thing would be to lock him up [in one of the pens] to cool his heels for a couple of hours,” Mr Horn told The Times.

“The judge would lock him up for four hours, or six hours.”

For longer sentencing, Rikers Island would be the more appropriate option.

The facilities are not designed for lock-ups surpassing 12 hours, however, as they lack showers and medical examiners.

The catering might also not be up to the billionaire’s taste either, with just cheese and baloney sandwiches on offer, the ex-NYCD commissioner said.

New York Justice Juan Merchan would also be entering uncharted waters if he decides to jail Mr Trump as the Secret Service provides the former president with round-the-clock security.

Mr Horn believes that the court may be developing “some sort of workaround given that armed personnel are typically prohibited in those areas”.

Rikers’ West Facility, a suite of 12 structures with six to seven cells a piece, was built to keep prisoners with contagious diseases apart from others.

It could be a fitting area to hold Mr Trump, Mr Horn suggested.

An aerial view of the notorious Rikers Island Prison
An aerial view of the notorious Rikers Island Prison (AP)

“Each cell is air-conditioned, it’s larger than the typical cells and it’s equipped with its own shower so a person doesn’t have to leave for a shower,” he said.

“It has a commode and a wash basin as well as a bed and a desk.

“In addition, each of these cells has what I would describe as an anteroom attached to it that is separated from the cell by a security glass window so the inmate can be observed at all times.”

In September, Mr Trump was said to have begun asking sources about what prison life might be like, according to Rolling Stone, apparently preparing to take the threat seriously.

The presidential candidate would likely have to swap his courtroom attire of a blue suit and coloured tie for a prison uniform, along with regulatory underwear instead, a spokesman for the NYCD said.

However, as per the department’s list of “permissible items,” Mr Trump’s family could send him a suit jacket to wear (although it cannot be blue), a tie, two white handkerchiefs and four pairs of trousers.

He would not be allowed any styling products for his famous blonde mane of hair, however.

“Hair products? I don’t think so. That’s contraband, baby!” Sarena Townsend, former head of internal affairs at Rikers, told The Times.

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