October 21, 2002
Federal Detention Camp
First Day in Prison
What an unbelievable day!
In my lifetime, I have anticipated major challenges, controversies,
and conflict. I went in the military knowing I might go to
war, though fortunately I never did. I knew every time I ran
for public office that I might face defeat. And I felt there
would be occasional tragedy I would have to deal with.
But I never in my worst nightmare ever felt I would one day
land in a federal prison.
Day one of my ordeal was last Tuesday, October 14th. Gladys
and I were awake at 4:00 a.m., and I packed the few items
I could take with me:
One pair of reading glasses.
One religious ornament. (A small silver cross given to me
by a wonderful lady named Mary in Thibodaux. She sought me
out to pray for me. You will read all about Mary in my upcoming
A wedding ring. (Gladys had one specially engraved for me
to wear while I'm away from home.)
A religious book. (The Book of Job: His Struggle Against Injustice)
And a chapstick. (There's been a lot of hugging and kissing
of family and friends in the last week. My lips are chapped.)
it. Nothing more. Everything else I might need will be, hopefully,
given to me at the prison.
Our first stop was at Coffee Call, off College Drive, to say
goodbye to our close friends and my key staff from the Insurance
Department. The press were aware of our plans, so they were
all there for my send-off. A short press conference, then
thirty minutes of goodbyes to the many people who stood by
me during this terrible and unfair ordeal.
I'm told most of the evening news stories pictured my son
James and I sharing a private moment and a hug as I told him
goodbye. He's a special son who has been at my side time and
time again during this crisis in my life.
On the road at 8:30 a.m. with Gladys, sister-in-law Gloria,
and family friend Janice Shaab. My first stop was the federal
courthouse in downtown Baton Rouge to pay my $50,000 fine.
I started to write a check to the clerk. "No personal
checks. Only money orders, cashier's checks, or credit cards.
cards?" I asked. "Will you take my American Express?"
The answer was yes. I paid my fine with the card, knowing
I would receive some 73,000 frequent flyer miles at the government's
expense. At least there was some good news out of all of this.
A two hour trip to Oakdale was next on the agenda, with a
caravan of reporters following along. The press joined us
in Oakdale at Popeye's for a quick lunch (coleslaw and a barbequed
chicken sandwich). Then to the gates of the Oakdale Federal
A swarm of reporters and television crews from throughout
the state were waiting to see me go in. I stopped the car
and got out to share a few final thoughts.
feelings are bittersweet. What happened to me is an outrageous
injustice that I hope never happens again to any American
citizen. Going in these prison gates, I feel like a prisoner
the only person in the country who has ever been convicted
in a federal court where I could not confront my accuser,
nor see the handwritten notes that were the basis of the charges
happened to me was wrong! I love my country, but I fear my
government. What happened to me is a blight on the judicial
I'm blessed by the support I have received from the people
of Louisiana. I've seen recent polls showing an overwhelming
opinion that I was not treated fairly, and that I should not
be in prison. And if an election were held today, I'd be re-elected."
will go through those gates with dignity, and will get along
fine. But I'll be back soon. I've written one book about my
ordeal. And I will continue to speak out for years to come
to oppose the abuses allowed by the prosecutors in my case."
With those final words, I drove through the prison gates,
and toward a whole new way of life-at least for the next six
* * * * * *
Several prison cars and trucks escorted us through the prison
camp entrance. Gladys walked with me through the front door
where we said our last goodbyes.
What could I say to the woman of my life who has stood by
me through this terrible ordeal, and who has never waivered
in her love and support. For this, I am truly blessed. We
share a few quiet moments, and then she left.
A friendly but professional orientation, a strip search, and
in to the basic green prison uniform. Then an escort to my
camp building-my new home.
So now I begin my personal purgatory. In the weeks to come,
I will tell you of dealing with prison life, as well as commenting
on public issues that surround me.
My best to all of you.