NEW YORK, NOV. 21 -- When Michael Milken enters a federal prison camp to serve the 10-year sentence he received today for securities fraud, the former billionaire will labor for as little as 11 cents an hour, wear surplus military fatigues and be obliged to shed his black, curly toupee.
But it could be worse.
There is no Alcatraz or Lorton-type institution awaiting Milken. No bars. No armed guards. Not even a wall or fence will pen him in. As a white-collar convict with no prior criminal record, Milken is virtually certain to qualify for imprisonment at a minimum-security facility that might include such extras as a gymnasium, billiards or Ping-Pong, according to judicial officials and law professors.
The institution will be "like an army barracks, maybe even a bit more comfortable," said a former U.S. prosecutor who worked on the Milken case. Federal prison rules will allow Milken, who reportedly is worth $700 million, to carry no more than $25 at a time -- and then only in coins. He will be limited to spending $105 a month on toiletries and snacks at the prison commissary.
But after Milken has done his job for the day -- perhaps as a janitor, gardener or typist -- his time will be his own as long as he shows up for meals, bed and regular head counts of inmates.
It isn't yet known where Milken will serve his time. The Federal Bureau of Prisons, an agency of the Justice Department, will make that decision, possibly after consulting with Milken's defense attorneys and with the judge who sentenced him.
But the law requires the bureau to select an institution with a level of security appropriate to the convict, and experts said that Milken is sure to be assigned to one of the 34 minimum-security or "level one" facilities that are officially called "prison camps" rather than simply "prisons." (The categories range up to level six, for the most violent and risky inmates.)
"He'll probably go to Allenwood," in Pennsylvania, "or one of the more country club-type prisons," said Alan R. Bromberg, a law professor at Southern Methodist University in Dallas and author of a book on securities fraud.
"He's not going to be in a place where he's subject to assault."
Milken won't go to Lompoc, Calif. -- site of one of the best-known white-collar prison camps -- because last summer it was converted to a higher-security institution and was refitted with fences and razor wire. Lompoc, known as "Club Fed" for its relaxed atmosphere and tennis court, was home for a time to Richard Nixon's chief of staff H.R. Halderman and convicted stock speculator Ivan F. Boesky.
The principal characteristic of a minimum-security prison camp is the reliance on the prisoner's conscience and the threat of transfer to a less pleasant institution to deter escape attempts. There are "no walls, no fences, nothing," said Greg Bogdan, public information officer for the Federal Bureau of Prisons in Washington. A feature of prison life that is likely to attract attention in Milken's case is the prohibition on hairpieces. Bogdan said toupees were banned to prevent their use as disguises, or to conceal contraband.