Justice – Politics – Satire
Updated: Date
Published: FEBRUARY 2022

Hint: bring your Secret Service detail!

Tips for a former U.S. president on how to survive life behind bars

The image is just s-o-o-o rich: a beefy former president with a Creamsicle-colored coiffure that matches his prison jumpsuit is surrounded by a cordon of U.S. Secret Service agents protecting him against “hardened” white collar criminals threatening him with Mont Blanc pens, tennis rackets, and Frisbees. These minimum security residents know a fellow grifter when they see one and no doubt will go to great lengths to make him one of “the boys”.

A fanciful reprise of the award-winning Netflix prison comedy-drama, Orange Is the New Black? Perhaps less so after U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland announced on January 5, 2022 that he would hold accountable perpetrators involved “at any level” in the January 6, 2021 insurrection on Capitol Hill. To say nothing of tax fraud investigations in New York and a Georgia probe into election interference that are still hanging over Donald Trump’s head.

But Secret Service protection? He gets it for life, the law says.1 Of course, as with everything about Trump, there is no precedent for this sort of thing. The way courts would likely look at this, if Congress had wanted to prevent a convicted former president from having protection for life, it could have – and would have – said so. After all, federal law stipulates that Trump’s $221,400 annual pension would be lost if Congress had removed him from office after an impeachment trial, but that law says nothing about a convicted former president.2 Maybe it never dawned on lawmakers that a president could end up in the hoosegow – even though many politicians have. But as things stand, agents would have to guard Trump in the clink, including while he showers or pees.

Not only would Trump get his pension, but if he died before Melania, she would get a $20,000 annual benefit, which would last her, what, a couple of days?3  In addition, Trump gets a travel allowance (he would have to put that on hold if he went to prison), staff salaries, office rent wherever he wants (no doubt for his own properties)4, and staff salaries. Could he use federal funds to bankroll an appeal? The rules don’t limit what the staff can do. The grift continues.

Some other presidential benefits would continue even in prison. He could receive national security briefings intended to allow him to provide “wisdom and useful political advice.”5 Are you kidding? Clearly not written with Trump in mind: he ignored the briefings even when he was in office. Wisdom and Trump in the same sentence? You’re killing me.

He could even work from prison on establishing a presidential library. Really? Highly unlikely, considering he assiduously avoided putting anything in writing while in office except for largely unintelligible tweets. And he has a history of instituting lawsuits to block release of anything even remotely negative about his life or activities. In any case, a Trump presidential library would likely fit in a phone booth –  with room to spare.

One thing Trump won’t get now that he is out of office is health insurance because he wasn’t in office for the minimum five years to be eligible (thank God). Might that be the real reason he fought so hard to stay in office?

Would Trump be able to have his usual diet of McDonald’s and Diet Coke in prison? Probably Diet Coke. But while he could get burgers, knowing Trump, a lawsuit would determine whether he could get a Big Mac.

Believe it or not, there is a publication entitled the Federal Prison Handbook by Christopher Zoukis that outlines what every federal prisoner will likely face in the first days behind bars. Here’s an understatement from it: “Chances are you will remember your first day in prison for the rest of your life.”6

The 521-page Federal Prison Handbook provides advice to federal prisoners on how to stay safe by avoiding the multiple conflicts that occur inside federal prisons on a daily basis.

The 521-page Federal Prison Handbook provides advice to federal prisoners on how to stay safe by avoiding the multiple conflicts that occur inside federal prisons on a daily basis.

Zoukis is a consultant specializing in prison preparation, in-prison matters, and reentry success. He offers individualized coaching to help prepare for a term of federal incarceration, offering “a simple, single-issue consulting service for $150 per issue which can be resolved within a 30- to 45-minute call.”7

How does the process start? A prisoner goes to Receiving & Discharge, where officials check their possessions to determine what’s okay to keep. For example, Trump would receive prison clothes (not from Brioni and no Armani red tie), then get photographed and fingerprinted. Next comes a government ID card. Guess he’d be able to vote except he’d be a felon. Maybe he’d push to let felons vote, and no doubt his cult base would support that about-face.

Admission and orientation (A&O) interviews follow. Zoukis advises against discussing any group or gang affiliations. That means someone would have to restrain Trump from boasting about his plans with Steve Bannon or the Proud Boys. After A&O, prison officials meet to decide whether a prisoner can stay in the general population or whether there are security or medical concerns that preclude that. They also decide whether there are mental health issues to address. For Trump, that part of the meeting alone could go for days. A prisoner such as Trump could ask for protective custody, but Zoukis generally doesn’t think that’s a great idea: “This is like voluntarily going into disciplinary segregation for months or years on end.”8

After all this, prisoners receive “slip-on shoes, socks, boxers, pants, t-shirts, sheets, blankets, soap, toothpaste, a toothbrush, and a towel.”9 Elegant bathrobes are not on the list. Eventually prisoners will be fitted for clothing at Laundry Services. Again, not the Brioni brand that Trump favors.

Prisoners can bring some things with them. They include a couple of pairs of glasses, required meds, a simple religious necklace (not an upside-down Bible), and money order and cash that can go into a trust fund account. The trust fund is something Trump could relate to, but the maximum spending is $360 a month: he surely couldn’t relate to that.

He would have to strip in front of prison personnel (won’t go there with that image), run his fingers through his hair (and hope for an extra four hours to put it all back in place), open his mouth, lift his tongue, squat, cough, and raise his arms. Have to make sure there’s no contraband, like a combo meal.

For the first few weeks, prisoners are in A&O status – kind of like college orientation. They get an A&O handbook, which lays out educational programs (might the warden care to distribute any Trump University texts?), commissary shopping days, disciplinary regulations, recreation programs, and ways to report sexual assault – that should garner special attention, especially for high-profile public figures such as Trump.

There is also a protocol to learn for greeting cellmates: introduce yourself and say you have been instructed to bunk in the cell. Then cool your heels, possibly for several hours, while your cellmate clears the bunk and cleans out the extra locker. One can just imagine how patient Trump would be.

One last thing. Like all prisoners, Trump would get a work assignment: janitorial, skilled (welding, operating forklifts), or clerical. The latter could include handling pay, a task I recommend Trump not get. Ditto for supervising prisoners or troubleshooting. Not exactly his skill-set. The highest pay rate: $1.15 an hour. For someone who didn’t want to raise the minimum wage (stagnating at an unconscionable $7.25 in the U.S. since 2009), this would be profound, poetic justice.

Of course, a lot has to happen before all of this. Trump would need to be indicted, and a jury would have to convict him. I bet his defense lawyers would argue that he couldn’t get a fair trial because everyone knows what he did and has an opinion. He did it all in flagrante delicto. Maybe he would argue his trial has to move to Moscow to find an impartial jury. But this argument is like starting a fight and then claiming self-defense. You don’t get to argue the jury pool is tainted when you tainted it.

I don’t know whether we’ll ever witness this matchy-matchy image of Trump the corrupt politico  businessman auditioning for the protagonist’s role in a real-life version of Orange is the New Black. But I yearn for it. Trump deserves it. So do the American people.


 RETURN  1. 18 U.S. Code § 3056 - Powers, authorities, and duties of United States Secret Service | U.S. Code | US Law | LII / Legal Information Institute (

 RETURN  2. Former Presidents Act | National Archives.

 RETURN  3. Ibid.

 RETURN  4. Ibid.

 RETURN  5. 10 Rules That Former Presidents Have To Follow After Leaving Office - WorldAtlas.

 RETURN  6. Christopher Zoukis, Zoukis Consulting Group. Federal Prison Handbook.

 RETURN  7. Ibid.

 RETURN  8. Ibid.

 RETURN  9. Ibid.

A profile of writer Stan Crock can be found here.

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