With the likelihood that now former Congressman Chaka Fattah is headed to federal prison following his conviction on corruption charges, two former inmates from Philadelphia have some advice.
Jimmy Tayoun literally wrote the book on spending time in federal custody — “Going To Prison” — after the former city councilman spent 40 months behind bars in upstate Pennsylvania.
Life will change considerably Chaka Fattah, Tayoun said.
“Chaka, who’s not used to having people ignore him, will find that the prison administration, its guards and whoever else serves the prisoners will consider him a zero. Like everybody else, he will be known by a number and his name,” said Tayoun, who was convicted of racketeering, mail fraud and tax evasion. “He’s got to understand there are no special privileges.”
Rick Mariano, another former city councilman, spent about five years in prison and a halfway house after he was convicted of bribery. Because Fattah was a congressman, Mariano said, it puts him toward the bottom of the prison pecking order.
“It’s going to hurt him because he’s so high profile,” Mariano said. “In prison, the bottom of the food chain is pedophiles, then policemen, then white-collar workers. Depending on street skills you have and how you relate to people, it’s not going to be easy. It’s not going to be easy for him.”
Mariano offered the longtime lawmaker this advice.
“Do the time, don’t let the time do you, but that’s easier said than done,” Mariano said. “I was guilty of 18 felonies and had six and a half years, 78 months. He was convicted of 22 or 23 … at his age, he could be in jail for the rest of his life.”
Mariano said Fattah’s quick resignation — just two days after his conviction — will help with his sentencing, as the first of many necessary acts of contrition.