Buddy Cianci

By JOE VILENO  |  September 24, 2007

How did the adjustment to prison go?
I got on OK. I was housed in a unit for 12 inmates, most of whom were minority guys. Two minority guys knew of me — they were from Providence, one had a picture of me with his kid at a Little League game in Providence, it was tacked up in his locker. They helped me to make the adjustment. In the early weeks I went to prison, 60 Minutes and the A&E channel ran specials on me, so most of the guys learned about me. One of the things I learned in prison is that you are respected if others know you pleaded not guilty but still was convicted, because they consider that you’re a “stand-up guy.” Most of the inmates pleaded guilty to get lesser sentences.
I was not housed in “country club” prison or “camp.” I was in a fenced-in-plus prison, holding over 4000 inmates, with iron gates and cells and concertina wire on top of the walls to prevent escape, and dogs for sniffing out drugs among inmates. There were serious drug dealers housed in there, some doing some long prison terms, a few organized crime guys who were connected with New York crime families and the like, and a lot of “illegal entries.” There were some white-collar criminals, but most of these guys were not from educated backgrounds. I did not have a hard time adjusting to the guards and other inmates. You learn quickly how to adapt, do what you have to do. I was held for the most part in “highest regard” in written reports. They [guards and administrators] judged me over time as a “role model” for getting along, for neatness, for cleanliness and performance of my jobs [according to written reports this interviewer had access to]. Over time, everybody participates in some way in evaluating how you handle yourself. The key to getting along is to show respect toward others and their activities. You learn quickly that respect and honor toward others is a must. Things happen in prison — you can easily get into trouble if you’re not careful, you get caught up in them. You don’t involve yourself in things that are not your business.

What were your jobs there? How did you spend your time in prison?
I was assigned early on from 11 am to 7:30 pm on kitchen “call-out” — mopping floors, washing, cleaning, doing anything that has to be done, for eight hours a day, five days a weeks. After a few months, I was assigned to work as a clerk in the prison library. Sometimes I did a little tutoring of guys who did not finish high school, but I was not formally a teacher there. I worked in the “leisure library,” not the law library, where guys go to read the law books. I was often asked by other inmates for legal advice, but I did not give it. The administrators don’t like the “jailhouse lawyer” idea. I would simply tell guys to talk to their own lawyer, or if they had none, the Bureau of Prisons has access to organizations that can help inmates with legal questions and they can read the law books.
In the leisure library, which is for general reading, I was looked upon as a “celebrity host” by other guys. I spent a lot of my time there. Mostly guys in prison watch sports on TV or gamble. I did neither. I read a lot. I read hundreds of books, usually biographies and some history. [When asked to name some of the titles, Cianci replied he read 1776, David McCullough’s history of the American Revolutionary period, and McCullough’s Truman. He also read about mayors Daley, Koch, and The Rascal King, Boston’s infamous Mayor James Michael Curley.] I also subscribed to papers and magazines, including the Providence Phoenix, which came every week. The other guys liked the Adult section of your paper.

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