Prison Expert Warns: Trump Behind Bars Would Be ‘Nightmare’ for Him and Country

Photo Illustration by Kelly Caminero / The Daily Beast / Getty
Photo Illustration by Kelly Caminero / The Daily Beast / Getty

There’s no guarantee Donald Trump will end up behind bars, but with him convicted on felony counts Thursday while still staring down a trio of separate indictments, the once remote possibility of a former U.S. president being incarcerated is inching closer to reality.

That’s sparked a common question: Just how would Trump hold up in prison, and what would his life behind bars look like?

The prison consultant Sam Mangel, who counts Trump’s locked up pal Peter Navarro as a client, told The Daily Beast on Friday that an imprisoned Trump would be a “nightmare” for the country and prison system, but would be especially hellish for the attention-craving former president.

Should he be sentenced to prison for his New York conviction, Mangel said Trump and his U.S. Secret Service detail would have to be squeezed into an already overcrowded NYC facility that’s sure to have a media circus outside its gates and scores of news helicopters swarming overhead.

“Logistically, it would be a nightmare,” he said. “So when I hear interviews that the New York Department of Corrections has everything taken care of, that to me is a statement made out of ego.”

That headache would only be the beginning of issues for corrections officials, Mangel said. Guards and administrators would have to walk a tightrope of putting special protections in place to keep Trump safe—and avoid a PR catastrophe should he be injured by a fellow inmate—while also trying to maintain the appearance of him receiving the same treatment as every other prisoner.

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Treating Trump the same as other inmates is important to prevent other prisoners from rising up in anger at any perceived special treatment—anger that, in a worst-case scenario, could lead to violence.

Because Trump’s charges for falsifying business records are considered white-collar, Mangel said he would be placed in a low-security facility that’s largely empty of people recently convicted of violent crimes. He said Trump’s team would likely advocate that he be housed alongside senior inmates—a request that would surely be granted.

Trump likely wouldn’t be navigating prison gangs and dodging sketchy characters like in the movies, but life as he’s known it for decades would be turned on its head, Mangel said.

Mangel, who was imprisoned himself as recently as 2020 for financial crimes, said Trump’s days in lockup would be nearly identical—awoken by an alarm every morning followed by him standing in front of his bed while a role call is taken.

“When you’re in prison, I don’t care who you are, you’re a number,” Mangel said. “You’re told when to get up, when to eat, when to go to sleep. And it’s humiliating, it’s degrading.”

Mangel said guards tend to not care “how important or famous or well known” someone was on the outside—everyone on the inside is treated more or less the same.

“Inside you get up at six in the morning, you go to your meals as dictated, you get the same phone time, the same lights out at four o’clock in the afternoon, you have to stand next to your bed for count,” he said. “So it is a humiliating situation. And especially for somebody like the former president.”

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Trump has already shown that he doesn’t take well to being told what to do by anyone. But being ordered around a prison yard—and working a prison job, should he take one—wouldn’t be the worst of it for Trump, Mangel predicts. It would be his lack of information and the absence of an audience.

Gone would be the days of Trump being able to freely tweet—or post to Truth Social—the second a thought comes into his head. Instead, Mangel said Trump’s communication would be limited to monitored daytime visits, attachment-less and character-capped emails that take over an hour to send, and phone calls that are often limited to just 15 minutes each day.

It’s that loss of touch with society that drives Mangel’s high-profile clients mad, he said, and Trump, as a 77-year-old billionaire, likely would be no different. Mangel said his clients often reach out to him for ways to get more time on the phone, but their requests are often denied.

“It’s been asked to me from other clients, ‘Can you please get me more minutes? I need more minutes,’”said Mangel. “There’s a sense of entitlement and a sense of, ‘Do you know who I am?’

“It doesn’t matter whether you’re an executive or a politician. It doesn’t matter that you’re used to unfettered phone access… You’re a president. Why should you have more than the next guy?”

Mangel said he hopes that Trump isn’t placed in a prison, but not for political reasons. He said he fears a locked up Trump—and the flaws of the U.S. prison system exposed under a media microscope—would be a stain on the country itself, and that authorities should explore the possibility of him being sentenced to be in confinement at a military base if he’s to be sent somewhere.

On a base, Mangel said his safety could be ensured, full privacy could be achieved, and New York’s crowded prison facilities wouldn’t be burdened with housing perhaps the world’s most high-profile criminal of the 21st century.

“If he has to be incarcerated,” Mangel said, “there are places that can handle it more appropriately and in a more professional, protected manner than a Bureau of Prisons or department of corrections facility.”

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Trump could be sentenced to up to four years in a New York prison for Thursday’s conviction. Records show, however, that criminals convicted of Class E felonies, the lowest level in New York, are often not sentenced to spend time behind bars if it is their first conviction. Instead, they are often fined and placed on probation—something that could also be quite the headache for Trump.

Trump will learn his fate in a sentencing hearing slated for July 11, just days before the Republican National Convention. Judge Juan Merchan will be the person who decides Trump’s sentence.

The ex-president’s legal team has been given 30 days from Thursday to file notice of appeal and six months to file the full appeal to the conviction, which they’re expected to do.

In the meantime, Mangel said he’s been working behind the scenes with those in Trump’s orbit to prepare them for potential prison time. He declined to say exactly who he was working with, but, with Trump pal Navarro already on his client-list, he said he’d be “thrilled” to advise Trump on what to expect in lock-up “should it ever come to that.” After all, he said he’s based just 20 minutes away from Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida.

“I’m not playing politics,” Mangel said. “I just think everybody deserves the most information possible to make it through the worst experience of their lives… other than death.”

Read more at The Daily Beast.

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