-- In her first television interview since being released from federal prison, “Real Housewives of New Jersey” star Teresa Giudice said she experienced horrible living conditions while incarcerated and described it like “living in hell.”
“I mean there was mold in the bathrooms. There was not running water constantly. The showers were freezing cold ... I mean, the living conditions were really horrible. Like, horrible,” she said in an exclusive interview with ABC News’ Amy Robach that aired Tuesday on “Good Morning America.” “There were some nights that we didn't even have heat ... It was -- it was hell.”
Speaking from her New Jersey home, the 43-year-old Giudice talked to Robach about her finances, her future and her time in prison –- including working for 12 cents an hour in the kitchen.
The reality TV star was released from the Federal Correctional Institution-Danbury, a minimum-security prison in Danbury, Connecticut, in December. She had served 11 and a half months of a 15-month sentence there after pleading guilty to multiple offenses that included conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bankruptcy fraud.
She was released early for good behavior, according to her attorney.
Giudice remained under house arrest until Friday. She was also required to pay $414,000 in restitution.
‘No Intent’ to Commit a Crime
Giudice’s husband, Joe, also pleaded guilty to federal crimes including hiding assets, submitting fake loan applications and failing to pay taxes. He's set to begin his own 41-month prison sentence in March.
Despite her guilty plea, when Robach asked whether she believed she was breaking the law, Giudice replied, "No."
“There was no intent to commit a crime. I didn't know I was committing a crime ...," Giudice told Robach. "I got sentenced. I got served time. I did what I had to do and now I'm moving past it."
When she reported to prison, the mother of four girls went from a life of luxury and celebrity to life with the bare minimum as inmate number 65703-050.
“It, you know, broke my heart because, you know, I was always growing up the good girl, always did everything right, crossed every ‘t’, dotted every ‘i.’ And, you know, so it was ... I was sad for my daughters. And I was upset,” she said.
The Danbury facility where she was incarcerated has a reputation for being a so-called “country club” prison – that is, the kind of prison that houses white collar criminals in relative comfort when compared with other prisons.
The ‘Boom-Boom Room’
Giudice says Danbury was no country club. In addition to the living conditions she described as being “horrible,” she said she had no privacy. In fact, she nicknamed her shared room “the boom-boom room” because so many fellow inmates had sex there.
“When I first got there I bought headphones the next day ... So thank God for commissary,” she said, laughing. “But I just went underneath the blanket. And we had a fan in our room. Like, this huge fan. And they would put that on every single night, so you can't hear anything.”
Her life in prison fell into an ordered routine.
“I had a job in the kitchen. I wiped tables after breakfast. Three days a week, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday. That was my job. I loved my job,” she said, adding that she earned 12 cents an hour.
She spent her earnings at the prison commissary. Because she said the prison only gave inmates essentials – toilet paper and maxi pads -- she had to buy whatever else she needed.
“My first paycheck was $1.60,” she said.
Giudice revealed she passed the time in prison by staying active, working out three times per day and developing a passion for yoga.
"Yoga changed my life. I’m going to get certified in yoga," Giudice said, adding she also did Pilates and ran on an outdoor track.
Giudice said her fellow inmates were “amazing,” adding: “You know, anytime anybody new comes, we all help each other. So I was given stuff, which was nice, when I first got there.”
Asked whether she ever feared for her life while she was incarcerated, Giudice said she never did, although there were fights that resulted in some inmates being “shipped out.”
In Prison ‘They Thrive on Drama’
She added: “Believe me ... I got pointed at and they were trying to start drama with me. But I just walked away.”
Having been at the center of confrontations on her hit show Giudice is used to drama, but she acknowledged that prison gave her a whole new perspective.
“Yeah, it was nothing like being on ‘The Real Housewives of New Jersey.’ Let me tell you ... when you go to prison it's a whole different -- there's a lot of drama," she said. "That's all there is, is drama. And I never lived with so many women in my life before. I mean that's all they -- they thrive on drama. It was crazy to me.”
The Federal Correctional Institution-Danbury could not be reached for comment as of this writing.
Giudice writes about her incarceration and turning a new leaf in her new memoir, “Turning the Tables: From Housewife to Inmate and Back Again.”
“Maybe I needed that time for myself to reflect and just and everything and life and just to become, you know, a better person and grow and just to be a better mother, better wife, better daughter, better human being through all this,” she said.
In the book out today, Giudice writes about being hounded by the paparazzi and targeted by the media. Given that criticism, Robach asked her why she chose to write the book and continue on the show.
Acknowledging that it was a “good question,” Giudice said this was her life now.
“It's what I know. And I live in New Jersey ... I don't live in Hollywood,” she said, adding that paparazzi aren’t always staked out at her house.
'One Day at a Time'
“Unfortunately during this crazy time that -- you know, this legal situation, that's where the paparazzi came around a lot more. So hopefully if the paparazzi (come) along in the future it'll be for happy times and for happy things that'll be going on,” she said.
The financial hardships that accompanied her legal troubles are largely behind her, she said.
"[We're not in] foreclosure any longer, thank you, God," she said. "And our restitution's paid off. We're in -- thank God – you know, in good shape."
Giudice’s husband is not an American citizen, so there’s a chance he could be deported to his native Italy when he completes his sentence.
“Have you considered that possibility? Would you move to Italy with the girls if that ended up becoming reality?” Robach asked Giudice.
She replied: “We're just taking one day at a time. I'm just, you know, happy to be home, be with the girls, be with Joe. Can't get enough of them.”