celebrity

From prison coaches to the squat and cough: Exactly what it's like to be a celebrity in jail.

Celebrities are no stranger to spending a bit of time behind bars; we’ve seen everyone from Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan to Martha Stewart swap red carpets for prison cells over the years.

Right now, it’s Felicity Huffman’s turn.

She’s just spent her first weekend in prison as she serves a 14 day sentence for her role in the college admissions scandal (a.k.a parents paying their way into top level colleges.)

So, what is prison really like for a celebrity?

Mamamia’s daily news podcast The Quicky found out exactly what it’s like for celebrities in prison. Post continues after podcast. 

Felicity is in a low security prison for women in the San Francisco bay area called the Federal Correctional Institution Dublin or FCI Dublin which is about the level of prison most “celebrities” end up doing time in.

A common misdemeanour celebs get nabbed for is drink driving, or breaking drink driving probation – as was the case for Lindsay Lohan, Paris Hilton and Khloe Kardashian.

Their sentences ranged from 30 to 45 to 120 days, but a lot of the time celebrities with this much spotlight on them end up wriggling out of serving their full sentence.

Khloe served three hours and was released because of “overcrowding” while Paris was released after two days. Heather Locklear avoided 120 days for battery and instead served 30 days in a mental health facility. Amanda Bynes faced the prospect of four years for drink driving and hitting a police car, but didn’t end up being sentenced to any.

Felicity hasn’t been so lucky as of yet, but “Club Fed” as her prison is colloquially called, did make it onto Forbes list of America’s cushiest prisons in 2009. It’s also where former Hollywood madam Heidi Fleiss did her time in the 90s.

Felicity huffman sentence
Felicity Huffman has been sentenced to 14 days for her part in the college admissions scandal. Image: Getty.
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Holli Coulman spent time in a very similar correctional facility and said while the perception is that celebrities get it easy, it's still a prison after all, and the  Desperate Housewives star is in for a rough fortnight.

"It's very similar, very, very similar [to my prison]," Holli told Mamamia's podcast The Quicky. "It's like a very rundown school, like a community college. Think of a large retail building like Costco. All the accommodations are concrete floors with pipes overhead that you can see," she explained.

"There will be cinder block half walls, and each of these cubicles are the living facilities. There's four women per cubicle in bunk beds. There's four lockers, two plastic chairs, and one writing desk," said Holli.

Unlike what we might imagine, prison isn't like the movies where inmates spend a lot of time "working".

"You really have to make your own time. It's very monotonous. There's a lot of downtime," said Holli.

"There are women who will go out and walk the track (which is a dirt track, there's no grass.) You'll see them in the evening trying to do yoga... sometimes someone will try and teach it to a group. There are people who just sleep all the time, people who write, people who are sewing or crocheting. You have to stay busy to get through it," she told The Quicky host Claire Murphy.

HOLLI COULMAN
Holli Coulman was sentenced to 21 months for wire fraud at the Federal Correctional Facility, which is near identical to where Felicity is right now. Image: Twitter.
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There are TV rooms that Felicity will have access to, but Holli explained that she'll have to take a plastic chair from her cubicle and a radio headset in order to be able to hear the programs. There's also about four decrepit computers which they can use for communication like email.

Sleep will be the toughest part, Holli said. Guards come in at midnight, 3am, and 5am, jangling their keys and flashing their torches making sure they can see everyone's faces and that they're sleeping in the right direction.

But despite Felicity only being given a 14 day sentence, she won't be getting any special treatment.

"She will have been strip searched, and she would have done the squat and cough, where they look for contraband. She is going to suffer that indignity, she already will have," said Holli.

After getting her DNA and swabs done, she will have been forced to change into prison clothes and as Holli explained, "handed a laundry bag that had blankets, a flat sheet, a pillow case, two bras, two washcloths, two towels and two pairs of socks inside."

John Fuller spent time in prison for forgery and conspiracy to distribute cocaine before turning his experience into a business. Nowadays he's a "prison coach" and spends his days preparing white collar, celebrity and sporting criminals for jail. Martha Stewart was one of his clients, as was Lamar Odom's family.

Martha Stewart spent five months in prison in 2004. Lamar Odom was facing up to four years in prison but ended up getting probation time. Image: Getty.
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"The average person who has worked his or her entire life - maybe they're an upper or middle class person - they have a lot of questions and a lot of fears. If you're an African American person from the average neighbourhood, prison is a rite of passage," John told The Quicky.

"You expect to get involved in crime and you expect to one day be incarcerated. So certain things are passed down because that's your culture. The clientele that I face is totally different - they know prisons exist, but they never planned on entering," he explained.

It's unclear if Felicity used the services of someone like John, but as he explained to The Quicky, status doesn't really matter inside prison.

"Extortion goes on all the time...but if you're in a low security prison [like Felicity's] it doesn't happen as much because everyone is going home in a matter of months or weeks," he explained.

Depending on the celebrity and what they're asking of him, John can pocket between $500 and $10,000 for helping prepare them for cell-life.

"Some people just want to sit around, have a cup of coffee and just talk. Other people have a wife and children left behind and they can have questions of their own as to ‘What will he bring? Can his medication come with him? Can his wedding ring come? How soon can he get visits? How soon can he call?’" John told Page Six.

Once they're in their prison issued jumpsuit, they're on their own, and Holli said that Felicity's celebrity status will no doubt attract attention.

"They'll think she's a joke, they'll think she'll just end up profiting from it [her experience] so they just won't have anything to do with her," she told The Quicky. After all, it might be low security but there are still women doing up to 10 years at these facilities.

"For a 14 day sentence they aren't going to want to [interact]," Holli agreed.

"Then you'll have those that will think they might get something [from her] so when she goes shopping, they might be able to get something from her if they befriend her. Then they'll be the starstruck people who will reach out to her. It'll be really 50/50 really," she explained.

"I suggest she be humble, very grateful for the [short] sentence she's been given, and listen to their [the other women's] stories," said Holli.

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