NASSAU, Bahamas — Sam Bankman-Fried, the disgraced and indicted former cryptocurrency executive, spends his days in a Bahamian jail watching movies and reading news articles about himself, holding out a sliver of hope that he will be granted bail and soon leave, according to a prison official who interacts with him on a regular basis.
Bankman-Fried might also soon decide to give up fighting extradition and allow himself to be brought to the United States to face charges, the official said.
Days after he arrived at the prison known as Fox Hill, Bankman-Fried remains in “good spirits” in the facility’s sick bay, where he has been undergoing a medical evaluation for several days, and he has expressed confidence that his lawyers will persuade a judge to grant him bail after their first attempt failed, said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.
But if the lawyers’ efforts at bail were to fail, Bankman-Fried would then waive his right to fight extradition and go back to the United States to “face the music,” he told the official on Friday morning in a brief exchange.
Reuters reported Saturday evening that the former FTX executive is expected to appear in court on Monday for a hearing to reverse his decision to fight extradition.
The official described the young ex-billionaire as “a little arrogant,” but overall “a nice guy” who has kept to himself and seemed “awfully scared” during his first days at the prison. He wouldn’t laugh when the other men held in the same room jokingly asked him how he managed to make so much money.
Earlier this week, as Bankman-Fried was watching a local TV news report about himself, the official asked him how he felt. He responded unperturbed: “It’s okay, I will deal with it,” the official recalled.
Bankman-Fried’s lawyers did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Bankman-Fried’s life has taken a dramatic turn since he was arrested. Until last week, he lived just a few miles away in a $30 million penthouse with his closest friends, running one of the world’s most well-known cryptocurrency exchanges. As U.S. regulators and prosecutors release an array of charges against him, his new address at a correctional facility, notorious for its unsanitary conditions and severe overcrowding, underscores his dramatic fall from grace.
As he waits for his new bail hearing on Jan. 17, there is a chance the former CEO of FTX could be transferred out of the sick bay — which is distinctly nicer than the rest of the facility and has amenities like air conditioning and proper beds — to a prison cell without running water or even a toilet.
His extradition trial, meanwhile, begins Feb. 8, but he could decide at any time to accept extradition and be sent back to the United States expeditiously before then.
Opened in 1952, Fox Hill, as it is commonly known, is the country’s only prison and has a long history of inmate complaints that have been backed up by expert witnesses and court documents. There is little or no access to running water, and prisoners are often forced to defecate in plastic bags or buckets. Many develop bed sores from sleeping on the bare ground.
Prison tour today.— Jasper Williams-Ward (@jasperward94) November 28, 2022
Check out @GuardianNassau for full tour video in a bit. pic.twitter.com/oGQnFetjcv
For now, Bankman-Fried is staying in the sick bay of the maximum-security block with five other men as he undergoes medical evaluation, according to Doan Cleare, acting Commissioner of Corrections at the Bahamas Department of Correctional Services.
Cleare refused to say where else he would be transferred in the facility or when that might happen, but added his department is addressing the complaints of poor conditions.
“This new administration is addressing all maters of concern,” he told The Post Saturday, adding that the department has made “tremendous stride in upgrades,” and that it will soon invest $1 million on plumbing fixtures in the remand center.
The facility has different sections that separate violent from nonviolent offenders, but these populations are often arbitrarily mixed due to understaffing or attempts to avoid fights between rival gangs, said Christina Galanos, a local criminal attorney. Defendants who have been arraigned but are not yet tried are usually located in the remand center, where Bankman-Fried would likely be transferred to, she added.
But the prison official said Bankman-Fried could also be transferred to a block within the maximum-security area that has been renovated. It houses inmates in individual cells, isolated from the rest of the population for safety reasons.
In most areas of the prison, inmates are supposed to get an hour every day outside for exercise. But due to staff shortages, overcrowding and an increasing number of gang brawls, they can often go days, sometimes weeks, without being allowed outside, Galanos said.
The sleeping situation is not much better. Inmates often sleep on sheets placed on top of cardboard on the floor, and many have complained of bedsores, hives, and overall body pain, said Galanos, who visits the prison on a regular basis and has represented over 100 clients held there. There is no plumbing in most of the facility and no access to purified drinking water, she added.
A 2021 human-rights report on the Bahamas by the U.S. State Department found that cells were also infested with rats, maggots and insects. The facility holds 1,617 inmates, even though it was built to accommodate 1,000.
To Cary Allen Chappell, an American citizen who spent over two months at the prison earlier this year after being charged with multiple gun and ammunition-related violations, the conditions are “inhumane,” he said in an interview.
For a period of time, Chappell recalled, he slept on concrete floors and went four or five days without eating anything except bread and water. At one point, he fell sick but was denied medical attention despite several requests to see a doctor. During this time, he said, he lost 30 pounds.
The remand area, where Chappell spent 45 days sharing a cell with four other inmates, was hardly an improvement. They all would urinate in a sink with no running water and then use their own jugs of drinking water to flush their waste. Although Chappell did have a mattress, it was full of bed bugs, he added.
As he recalls, inmates were only allowed 20 to 30 minutes in the courtyard about three times a week, but that could vary depending on the section he was staying at. The isolation, lack of recreational activities, scant natural light, and overall deplorable conditions pushed him into an extreme psychological state, he said.
“I was suicidal most of the time,” he said. “You just sat there all day thinking about the problems of your life.”
In comments to the local Eyewitness News site, Commissioner Cleare said that the crypto mogul would receive “no special treatment than any other inmate” while he stays on remand.
Galanos, the lawyer, said it is rare for any inmates to stay longer than a few days in the sick bay barring a “serious medical condition.” But considering Bankman-Fried’s notoriety, authorities may decide to keep him there so that he is separated from the general population.
“Someone may hurt him, harass or threaten him, and if he ends up dead it would be a scandal,” Galanos added. “No one wants that.”
During his first bail hearing last Tuesday, Bankman-Fried’s lawyers argued he should be released on bail because he has special vegan needs and has suffered from depression, insomnia and ADHD for more than a decade.
Cleare countered that a prison doctor will determine a dietary plan for Bankman-Fried and that officials would contact his family to bring him food and accommodate his “severe, strict diet.”
In the meantime, the prison official said, Bankman-Fried is getting vegan food, a luxury few other inmates have.
There were no such options for Valentino Bethel, a current Fox Hill inmate who filed a lawsuit against the Bahamas Department of Corrections in the Supreme Court last year for breaching his constitutional rights and inflicting “inhumane treatment.” He was held in a 6-by-9-foot cell with four other inmates with no mattresses. The poor diet, including a paucity of fruits and vegetables, caused him to lose more than 30 pounds, according to court documents.
“The cell lacks plumbing and running water for sanitation, there is no lighting in the cells which are infested. The roof leaks causing cells to flood. Inmates are forced to urinate in a bottle and leave the bottles at a corner in the cell,” the claim said, adding that plastic bags are used for defecation.
Although prison regulations require that inmates exercise and shower daily, Bethel said that inmates were given windows of only 15 to 20 minutes, twice a week, when they could choose to shower, exercise, or go the barbershop, according to the lawsuit.
The court dismissed the claim earlier this year, arguing that Bethel skipped several lower tribunals, and instructed him to direct his complaint to the Correctional Services Review.