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Disgraced Traficant found prison life ‘tough’

A former Ohio congressman who was freed after seven years in federal prison said he was put in jeopardy behind bars because of his views.
Image: James Traficant
Former congressman James Traficant has discussed his experiences in a New York prison dubbed "The Gladiator School."Fox News Channel?s On the Record / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

A former Ohio congressman who was freed after seven years in federal prison said he was put in jeopardy behind bars because of his views.

James Traficant spoke in an interview broadcast Thursday night on the Fox News show "On The Record With Greta Van Susteren."

Traficant said life behind bars was "tough," and that it wasn't long before he was in "the hole." He said he was "put in a position to be hurt" at the federal prison in Allenwood, Pa., because it had many illegal immigrants unhappy with his idea of patrolling the Mexican border with troops.

The nine-term Democrat from Youngstown was released from a medical prison in Rochester, Minn., last week after serving time for racketeering, bribery, obstruction of justice and tax evasion.

Traficant said his days at Allenwood were followed by time at the upstate New York Ray Brook prison, which he refers to as a "medium-high" security prison nicknamed "The Gladiator School."

"There's a lot of violence. ... Most political figures go to some camps in country clubs. I didn't," he said.

'A lot of good guys'
The government considers the New York facility medium security; the Allenwood prison has low, medium and high security areas.

The Bureau of Prisons said Traficant was treated like any other inmate, and that prison assignments are based on several factors. There also are a number of reasons why an inmate might be placed in a special housing unit, the bureau said, and privacy polices prevent the release of information on inmates' disciplinary records.

Traficant said he spent the bulk of his time in Rochester with a "lot of good guys."

"I understood the dynamics of prison life," he said. "And now what you have is, they want to keep the prisons open, keep the jobs going. They're putting 20, 30 years on some of these young people, and it's out of hand."

Traficant said he hasn't decided yet whether he will run again for Congress, and that he forfeited his future. He also said he doesn't care about anyone did to him or does to him in the future.

"I'm going to say what I think is right, I'm going to do what I think is right," he said. "And if it offends some people, then so be it. You see, because I'm still, I guess, the same jackass I was."

At a weekend "welcome home" event for Traficant in suburban Youngstown. the Democrat said the government had to "cheat" to convict him, reiterating his trial defense that the government was out to get him.

In the interview aired Thursday, he said he holds some grudges.

"I want to go at them," he said "They came to me and said if I said I was guilty, I might even get a pardon. And I told them to shove the pardon up their derriere sideways."

In the interview, Traficant also denies that he is anti-Semitic and argues that "Israel has a powerful stranglehold on the American government," controlling members of the House and Senate and involving the U.S. in wars in which it has little or no interest.

He says he predicted another economic depression and people just laughed at him.

"Stevie Wonder could see this coming," he said. "Stevie Wonder could see America's troubles now."

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