Former Rep. Jim Traficant (D-Ohio) was transferred last week to a higher security federal prison facility in upstate New York, a move that generally means a prisoner has misbehaved while behind bars.
Traficant was moved March 11 to Ray Brook, N.Y., in the Adirondack Mountains. The 1,235-inmate, medium-security prison also houses former Gambino family crime boss John A. “Junior” Gotti.
The Ray Brook facility is more than 400 miles away from Traficant’s Youngstown, Ohio, home. It formerly served as a dormitory for athletes at the 1980 Lake Placid Olympics.
Since shortly after his sentencing in July 2002 on bribery, racketeering and tax-evasion charges, Traficant had been a prisoner at the 1,360-inmate, low-security portion of the Allenwood prison complex in White Deer, Pa. The rural, central Pennsylvania facility is about 200 miles from Youngstown.
He has steadfastly refused all interview requests since entering prison.
Bureau of Prison officials said they were barred by privacy rules from discussing the reasons for Traficant’s transfer. Dan Dunn, a BOP spokesman, said the reasons for a transfer could be related to an inmate’s request, prison facility overcrowding, or as a disciplinary measure related to their conduct.
A person familiar with the matter said it had to do with disciplinary problems involving the 62-year-old political maverick, although that individual declined to elaborate.
In December, Traficant’s projected release date was pushed back 24 days. While BOP officials refused to say why, the loss of so-called “good time” credits generally is related to disciplinary problems with the inmate, according to prison experts. Traficant is now scheduled to be released on Aug. 10, 2009.
Traficant’s attorney, Richard Kerger, of Toledo, Ohio, said he was unaware of the transfer until contacted Wednesday by reporters. Although he has not heard from Traficant in months, Kerger said he did not believe the move was related to discipline.
“I am not aware of any problems,” he said. “There are any number of reasons that an inmate gets moved that are unrelated to anything associated with discipline.”
Jimmy Tayoun, who spent six years in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives and 16 years on the Philadelphia City Council before serving three and a half years in a federal penitentiary for racketeering, mail fraud, tax evasion, and obstruction of justice, said he believed Traficant got into trouble with other prisoners or prison officials. He is the author of “Going to Prison,” a book offering advice to white-collar criminals on life behind bars.
“There’s no reason for him to be sent there unless he has got a problem,” Tayoun said.
“He either got into trouble with somebody at the prison or somebody is out to get him,” added Tayoun, who said it was unusual for a former Congressman to be incarcerated in a medium-security facility.
“He created problems for himself. Some people who were Congressmen don’t know how to forget that they were a Congressman,” Tayoun said.
Life for prisoner No. 31213-060, the number assigned Traficant, will be more difficult and involve less freedom, Tayoun said.
“What it means is that he is more protected. He’s behind the fence now. He is restricted as to his movements. He moves every hour on the hour,” Tayoun said.
“There are more guards, and they watch you more closely,” he added.
Carla Wilson, a BOP spokeswoman, said a medium-security prison has strengthened perimeter fencing with detection systems and a higher staff-to-inmate ratio.
One of Traficant’s new neighbors, the infamous 40-year-old Junior Gotti, is serving time at Raybrook after pleading guilty in 1999 to extortion, loan-sharking and gambling charges. He is scheduled to be released in September 2004.
Traficant, in the course of his Congressional career and in frequent comments leading up to his conviction, often boasted of his mob connections. He was acquitted in 1983 of taking $163,000 in bribes from mobsters while he was a sheriff. His longtime administrative aide once admitted to being a bag man for a Youngstown-area mobster.