Madoff's new digs not as bad as he deserves

As Bernie Madoff begins his new life in jail, newspapers are eagerly sopping up every miserable detail of prison life and breathlessly passing them on to readers. The New York Post, for example, offered the headline, "Inside Look at Rat's New Cage: Beware Cellmates, Bernie," while the Daily Newspresented a measured, thoughtful peek at life inside: "Bernie Madoff's hellhole: Ponzi schemer is caged 23 hours a day, gets bad food and few visitors." One almost expects to see the headline "Bernie Madoff in eternal perdition, forced to sleep on 200-thread count sheets, use one-ply toilet paper. Cupcakes only on Thursdays."

For better or worse, this isn't Turkey. Life at the 10 South section of Manhattan's Metropolitan Correctional Center, while undoubtedly a step down from a Motel 6, is hardly the Shawshank Redemption horror that the papers want to present. To begin with, Madoff's cell (a typical cell at the Metropolitan Corrections Center is shown here), which the papers have gleefully pointed out is 8 feet by 8 feet, is only a little smaller than the room I shared with two guys during my sophomore year in college. While it's undoubtedly a come down for a guy used to living in a palatial apartment on Park Avenue, it's hardly a tiger cage. (For that matter, it's worth noting that some tourists are paying $30 a night to sleep in similar circumstances at a hostel on the Bowery, not far from where Bernie is booked into his gray bar penthouse.)