Elizabeth Holmes, once the darling of Silicon Valley and a (paper) billionaire, reported to the Federal Prison Camp in Bryan, Texas yesterday to begin serving her 11-year sentence for multiple fraud charges.
Holmes’ false claims about the blood-testing technology sold by her former start-up Theranos stand alongside the most brazen lies ever told in business. (For more on this, check out this fascinating interview with Amanda Seyfried, who transformed into Holmes for Hulu’s reimagining of her story.)
Now behind bars, Holmes will share a 6 am wakeup call, communal bathing facilities, and a job paying just a few cents per hour with 600 other woman inmates — including Jennifer Shah of Bravo’s Real Housewives of Salt Lake City, who’s doing time for her role in a telemarketing fraud scheme.
A plan to give back
According to Camp Bryan’s prison handbook, “All designated inmates are required to develop a financial plan to meet their financial obligations.” Holmes’ reparations come to an eye-watering $452 million. She’s been ordered to repay the high-profile investors she defrauded alongside her former business partner Sunny Balwani as part of her sentence — but she claims she can’t even afford her lawyers’ bills.
Theranos’ benefactors included former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and the Walton family, who founded Walmart. Former Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos reportedly contributed $100 million, and according to court documents, Holmes must repay Rupert Murdoch $125 million.
The realities of prison pay
Raising such sums will be impossible under the conditions Holmes will experience in prison. Following a six-week course on efficiency in the workplace, all medically-cleared inmates at Camp Bryan are required to maintain a regular job assignment. The rates offered by the Inmate Performance Pay (IPP) system are puny.
Rates of pay operate on a sliding scale, with inmates receiving $0.40 per hour in Grade 1, $0.29 per hour in Grade 2, $0.17 per hour in Grade 3, and $0.12 per hour in Grade 4. Federal Prison Industries (UNICOR) has a separate pay scale, offering potentially slightly higher rates of $1.15 at Grade 1, $0.92 at Grade 2, $0.69 at Grade 3, $0.46 at Grade 4, and $0.23 at Grade 5. But either way, no one’s making millions, no matter how long their sentence.
Say goodbye to privacy
There’s not a lot of scope for personal space at Camp Bryan. Mark MacDougall, a longtime white-collar defense lawyer and former federal prosecutor tells CNN that though the federal prison has minimum security, it’s no walk in the park. “I think people who talk about ‘Camp Fed’ have never actually been inside a federal correctional institution,” he says. “It’s not a place where people would want to spend time if they could be somewhere else.”
Everyone serving time at Camp Bryan must be present for inmate counts five times per day, or face disciplinary action. Sleeping in past the 6 am wake-up call also results in a punishment — but given the dormitory arrangements, sleeping too much seems unlikely.
Inmates typically share dorm rooms consisting of four-bunk cubicles, with communal bathing facilities. According to the handbook, each inmate is responsible for making her bed “in accordance with posted regulations before work call (including weekends and holidays when she leaves the area).” Each inmate must also sweep and mop her room floor, remove trash, and ensure it is “clean and sanitary.” Lockers must be “neatly arranged inside and out, and all shelving must be neat and clean.”
Added to that, the “Shakedowns” section of the handbook reminds inmates that “staff may search an inmate’s housing and work area, and personal items contained within those areas, without notice, randomly, and without the inmate’s presence.”