Actor Wesley Snipes Reports to Pennsylvania Federal Prison

Snipes was sentenced earlier this year to three years behind bars.

December 8, 2010, 3:04 PM

Dec. 9. 2010 —, 2010 -- Award-winning actor Wesley Snipes today added a less prestigious line to his resume: Bureau of Prisons inmate No. 43355-018.

Snipes, best known for his roles in the "Blade" trilogy, surrendered shortly before noon today at a federal prison in Pennsylvania where he will serve a three-year sentence for failing to file his taxes.

Snipes, 48, was convicted in April 2008 of three misdemeanor counts of willful failure to file income taxes and has spent the last two years unsuccessfully trying to appeal the ruling.

But the wait is over for Snipes, who was required to hand over his street clothes for a prison uniform as he settles into his new home at the McKean Federal Correctional Institution in Lewis Run, Pa.

Snipes will end up in the adjacent satellite minimum security prison camp, according to Federal Bureau of Prison spokesman Edmond Ross.

Ross said Snipes was processed "without incident" and is going through inmate orientation before being assigned a bunk.

Larry Levine, a former 10-year federal inmate and founder of Wall Street Prison Consultants, said Snipes is certainly going to one of the nicer prisons, one often dubbed a "Club Fed."

"'McKean the dream,' that's what we call it," said Levine, who served time most recently at a federal detention center in California for a securities conviction and has reportedly advised criminals as high-profile as Ponzi-schemer Bernie Madoff.

"It's a nice place, but it's definitely not like checking into a hotel," said Levine of the camp, which houses about 290 white-collar male criminals in dormitory-style living quarters.

Snipes and his lawyer did not return several messages left by, but, when asked during an interview with CNN's Larry King if he was nervous about going to prison, Snipes said, "I think any man would be nervous."

"Given the length of time that they are suggesting that I be away from my family, away from my profession, away from my ability to provide for my family and for those who have depended upon me to contribute to society...I think anyone would be nervous about that," said Snipes.

Snipes said he's "more upset and disappointed" that the system "doesn't seem to be working" for him. He said he doesn't believe he deserves the time behind bars.

Snipes Goes from Red Carpet to Federal Prison

Continuing to fight his sentence could prove detrimental once he's in custody, according to Ed Bales, the managing director of Federal Prison Consultants LLC, who has also served time.

"He's fought his case since he started," said Bales. "And what he needs to do is stop fighting and relax and do his sentence."

Experts estimate that Snipes will serve at least 26 months of his 36-month sentence and could be transferred to an early house sometime after the two-year mark.

"He's in for a pretty easy ride as far as he'll be in a federal prison camp and it won't be too difficult a time, but if he rides his sentence he could be in for it," said Bales.

During the interview with King, Snipes said that he was still holding out hope that a judge would delay his sentence until after the holidays so he could celebrate with his wife and children.

"I think the publicity of this case will hurt him," said Bales. "Some of the staff is going to want to prove that he's nobody -- that he's just another prisoner and that they're the boss."

Most high-profile inmates fear and struggle with the same aspects of prison life, notably the lack of privacy and the absence of a personal security team, said Bales.

"He'll have a bit of a shock if he's used to luxury accommodations," said Bales. "But everyone gets accustomed to it -- even Martha Stewart and Leona Helmsley."

Stewart served time in 2004 for securities fraud and Helmsley was incarcerated for tax evasion in 1992.

"He's still going to know he's in prison every day and if he ever forgets, the guards will remind him," said John Webster, the managing director of National Prison and Sentencing Consultants.

Webster said he once had a client, who had lived a privileged life before being sent to prison, and asked a correctional officer for a cup of coffee from his cellblock.

"The guard looked at him like he was absolutely crazy," recalled Webster. "They locked him up in the hole."

The hole is a so-called jail within a prison where inmates are put on 23-hour lockdown, normally after receiving a disciplinary notice.

Like other prison consultants, Webster, Bales and Levine make their livings advising soon-to-be inmates on what they can expect behind bars.

Some consultancy agencies will offer clients everything from psychological treatment, to help cope with being locked up, to advice on how to appeal to a judge for placement at a particular prison.

Levine said that clients often come to him "scared" and "confused."

Prison Consultants Give Snipes Prison Advice

Some of the best advice he gives his clients is to get into a routine as quickly as possible once they settle into prison life, said Levine.

Snipes, like all federal prison inmates, will be expected to work a job that may range from landscaper to food service to painting. He'll be paid anywhere from 12 cents to 40 cents an hour for his labor, said Levine.

Snipes' income totaled more than $13 million during the three-year period he was convicted of failing to pay his taxed, according to court records.

He will also be allowed to make phone calls -- up to 300 minutes per month -- and will be allowed a personal radio.

Reeling in his celebrity status, said Levine, will be imperative for the duration of his prison stay.

"If Snipes called me today, I'd tell him that he's not better than anyone else and nobody is going [to care] that you're Wesley Snipes," said Levine.

"Dont' become confrontational, show lots of respect to people," he said. "Don't change the channel on the [community] TV, don't reach across someone's plate."

Reaching across someone's plate in prison is the "ultimate disrespect," said Levine, who said he's seen fights break out over the misstep.

"It's a camp, so he's not going to be in there with violent offenders, but there is tension," said Levine. "It's the holiday season, and that's the worst season because people are missing their families."

"Snipes needs to remember that everyone's main goal is to get out and get back to their families."

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