The prison in which Bernie Madoff is incarcerated has denied the New York Post report that the Ponzi-schemer is dying of cancer, but they haven't denied the article's claims that Madoff has been participating bare-chested sessions at the Native American sweat lodge and making friends with the homosexual clique.
MSNBC's "Morning Meeting" invited Larry Levine, of "Wall St. Prison Consultants," on the show to discuss Madoff's situation. Levine, who advises white collar criminals on how to survive life in the big house, and who was in prison once himself, was chock full of interesting information.
Levine noted that the sweat lodge sessions don't just happen for anybody:
Everyone's reaching out to him. I guess they want to be Bernie's friend. They want to have the notoriety that they're running with Bernie Madoff. To get into the sweat lodge, it's by invitation only. I've been in the sweat lodge a couple times, and they've got these in all the prisons. it's a religious kind of thing. And they go in there and take their shirts off; they heat the stones up. They smoke sage. They chant, they play the drum. They smoke anything else they can get into the institution. So maybe Bernie's exploring all kinds of things.
A crucial decision upon entering prison is which gang you're going to affiliate with, but Levine says Bernie's in a tricky situation:
Let's break it down. You got the black gang: Bernie's not running with them. You got the Hispanic gangs: he's not running with them. And the white gangs are going to be the Aryan gangs - well, they're certainly not going to take a 71-year-old Jew into an Aryan gang.
The best advice Levine can give Madoff comes, as it always does, from personal experience:
I heard they got Bernie painting fences; they've got him engraving plaques. So he's got a prison job. He ought to work for the Commissary Trust Fund, like I did, with Bobby the Bookmaker. He can get cappucino and sit there all day and play cards.
MSNBC host Dylan Ratigan wondered what kind of connections one needs to land such a plum job. It stands to reason that you would need to know somebody, and that's true, although perhaps not in the way you might think:
You gotta be smart and know what you're doing. They had me working in there - the Italian inmates recommended me - they said hey we got a smart Jew that knows how to run things. Let's plug him in there and they did.
Ratigan remarks, "So the Italians and the smart Jews will run together in prison from time to time." As Levine himself said earlier, prison "is a strange situation."