It is a 90-minute flight from New York to Raleigh, N.C., and then it takes about 40 minutes by car to get to the Butner Federal Correction Complex. As you drive east from Raleigh all you can see for miles is farmland scattered with a few small buildings. Butner is a beautiful, rural community, despite being home to several prisons.
The Butner complex itself has four prisons: two medium security facilities, a hospital and a low-security prison as well. Bernard Madoff is in Medium I. All the buildings are white and low to the ground, and from a distance look like an attractive office complex. The area was quiet and extremely well-kept -- if I was expecting doom and gloom, it wasn't what I found. Only as you drive closer to the actual buildings can you see the barbed wire fence ringing each of the four prisons.
We drove right up to Medium I's entrance and were greeted by the head of security, who walked me into the lobby. It was immaculate, with just one guard at the main desk to check in visitors. My producer and I signed our names in the daily log, and walked through a metal detector similar to what you'd find at an airport -- but this time I was allowed to keep my shoes on.
I had what is called a "media interview" with Madoff, which is different than the regular visits prisoners get with family and friends. For our interview, I was permitted only to bring in pen and pad. I was also allowed to bring in $20 in quarters since there were vending machines near our meeting room, which prisoners and guests are permitted to use during the visit. As it turns out, Madoff didn't want anything, but I did mention it during the meeting in case we were hungry.
After we were checked in, we met the assistant warden and public information officer. I was struck that they were both women -- this at an all-male facility. The two women walked us to through the first locked gate. It was gray steel, and the first indication that we were walking into a prison. The gate swung closed behind us, and then a guard asked me for my left hand, and proceeded to stamp me with an infrared ink that couldn't be seen to the naked eye. The guards wanted to make sure that visitors who walk into the prison are the same individuals who walk out two hours later.
We went through two more gated rooms -- each time a door swung closed behind us, another door swung open in front of us. Finally we were led to a corridor with columns on one side that open to a courtyard in the middle of the complex. The courtyard had beautifully manicured gardens, which we learned were courtesy of the prisoners who maintain the grounds.
We were ushered into the private Assistant Warden's Conference Room. There were two long tables with about 10 chairs at each table. Walls are cinderblock painted white, with Inspirational "TEAM" posters on the wall and a computer in the corner. I was briefed about my visit and the prison rules, and then 10 minutes later Madoff was brought in by the assistant warden.