If former Hamilton County Sheriff Billy Long is convicted or pleads guilty to the federal charges against him, the gun charge he potentially faces could be key to determining where he serves time, a consultant said.
Steve Vincent, a former federal inmate from Louisville, Ky., who advises convicted felons on what to expect in prison, said offenders with gun convictions cannot be housed in federal prison camps. These camps, the lowest security level in the four-tier federal system, are considered the most comfortable places to serve time, he said.
“If he gets 10 years or less, he’s more than likely going to end up in a prison camp,” Mr. Vincent said. “But he needs to get out of that gun charge somehow.”
Mr. Long is represented by Chattanooga attorney Jerry Summers, who could not be reached for comment.
The former sheriff is being housed at the Bradley County Jail. He is isolated from the general population, said Deputy Bob Gault, a spokesman for the Bradley County sheriff.
The cost to the U.S. Marshal service to hold Mr. Long is $49.60 a day, Mr. Gault said.
In Floyd County, Ga., sheriff’s deputies are retaining Sam Parker, a former sergeant with the LaFayette Police Department, who is in isolation and charged in the death of his estranged wife, Theresa.
Mr. Vincent, who spent 24 months in a prison camp for bribing a union official, said he served his time with former FBI agents and state troopers. The camps have no fences, no bars and little violence, he said.
Martha Stewart, famed magazine publisher and author, served six months at Alderson Federal Prison Camp in West Virginia for obstructing justice and lying to investigators about a stock sale. Media deemed Alderson “Camp Cupcake,” saying it resembled a college campus more than a prison.
Former police officers may be shunned in such a camp, but most offenders wouldn’t chance violence or other illegal contact for fear they might have to complete their sentences at a facility with greater security and restrictions, Mr. Vincent said.
The Federal Bureau of Prisons recognizes the risk some former law officers might face in prison and takes precautions to protect them, a spokeswoman said.
“Former law enforcement experience is something we look at when we designate where to put that person,” said Felicia Ponce, a spokeswoman for the Federal Bureau of Prisons. “We will look at whether (a person) can be housed in our general population or if he needs to be isolated.”
Ms. Ponce said all such decisions would be made after a conviction during a presentencing report.
“In most cases, inmates don’t like to be segregated,” said Dorenda Carter, a spokeswoman for the Tennessee Department of Correction. “There are more freedoms in general population, but our main job is to protect inmates. ... We have law enforcement in (the) general population.”
Avoiding any conflicts might be as simple as moving an inmate to a different part of the country, experts said.
“They will move them across the country sometimes to get them away from any threats,” said Ed Bales, managing director of the Delaware-based Federal Prisons Consultants Inc. “But mostly they get treated normally.”
The Bureau of Prisons “says they don’t give preferential treatment to anyone, but they work with former law enforcement,” Mr. Bales said.
Housing certain inmates “can be a drain on your manpower,” said Tom Caldwell, chief deputy for the Floyd County Sheriff’s Department.
“If it’s a law enforcement officer, they may need to be isolated,” he said. “Like with Sam Parker, we isolated him because he’s from this part of the state and because he had some fears about his safety.”
But such safety concerns aren’t as common on the federal level, Mr. Bales and Mr. Vincent said.
“What you see on TV really isn’t accurate,” Mr. Vincent said. “I couldn’t speak for the state system, but police officers aren’t treated badly in the federal (system).”
Adam Crisp covers education issues for the Times Free Press. He joined the paper's staff in 2007 and initially covered crime, public safety, courts and general assignment topics. Prior to Chattanooga, Crisp was a crime reporter at the Savannah Morning News and has been a reporter and editor at community newspapers in southeast Georgia. In college, he led his student paper to a first-place general excellence award from the Georgia College Press Association. He earned ...