Photo: AP Images
A little over a month ago, Dennis Kozlowski heard six magic words he’s been dreaming about for the past seven years; “Pack up, you’re on the draft.” In prison, being ‘on the draft’ means you’re either going home, or being sent off to a work release program. Either way, it’s one of the happiest days of your life. Kozlowski is not going home just yet, but he’s now a whole lot closer. After 5 previous failed attempts, NY State finally granted him work release.I myself heard those magic words, back in July of ’08 when I was released from prison after serving 13 months for securities fraud. I was sent to the same work release facility that Kozlowski is now at, Lincoln Correctional Facility, located on 110th street, on the corner of 5th Ave. Yes Lincoln may be overlooking Central Park, but it’s light years away from Kozlowski’s previous 13-room apartment on 5th avenue, which towered above Central Park. While Lincoln is not a palace, compared to life upstate, it sure feels like one. Let me tell you what his first week back was like, and what he’ll be facing while on work release.
Mr. Kozlowski, the ex-Tyco CEO, was convicted in 2005 of grand larceny, conspiracy, and fraud, and was sentenced to 8 and 1/3rd years to 25 years in prison. His notorious claims to fame in the media and gossip pages, were of course the $15,000 umbrella stand and $6,000 shower curtain that he and his now ex-wife had adorned throughout their apartment.
In September of 2005, after being sentenced, Kozlowski arrived at his new home, the Mid-State Correctional Facility, in Marcy, NY. Fast forward to nearly seven long years later and it was finally time to leave. When a corrections officer informs you, “you’re on the draft,” you have about 30 minutes to pack up everything you’ve accumulated (letters, books, family photos) while in prison. The clothes you will almost definitely leave behind for other inmates. Kozlowski would have been given two large plastic garbage bags to be thrown on the bus for the next days journey out.
Since he’s only on work release and technically not a free man, he would’ve been shackled at the legs and hands for the 5 hour bus ride back to civilisation. Being shackled is one of the most humiliating (not to mention sometimes painful) things a prisoner has to endure. You shuffle along, unable to take anything more then baby steps. The guards snickering at your misery. But ya know what; it doesn’t matter, you can handle it, the worst is over, you’re going home. On the bus you’ll also be having your last NY State brown bagged lunch, which is the staple all prisoners receive for the dreaded prison bus. Consisting of 2 cheese sandwiches on wet, moist bread, one stale sugar cookie, and one plastic container of grape juice. Sadly you don’t get to enjoy this gourmet meal with the use of your free hands, you have to bite into that delicious sandwich all the while being handcuffed……..not easy to do
Most inmates upon arriving back in NYC don’t have jobs lined up, but Kozlowski has he had secured a job with the Assets Technology Group in New Canaan, Conn. While he’s on work release Koz (that’s his prison nickname) will leave Lincoln CF at 7:00 am. You have to wait in line in the facility to get your day pass, then about 5 minutes later the heavy metal doors are opened, and out you go. For many, its the very first time they have not been behind bars for years. In Kozlowski’s case, you’re talking seven years. You hit 5th avenue and are overwhelmed by the feeling of being free. No one is watching you, no guards sitting up in the watch towers, shotguns at the ready. It’s just you and the city, no barbed wire to be found.
So Dennis will go to his job, work a full day, but have to be back at Lincoln by 6:00pm. Upon reentering Lincoln (and yes, it is a correctional facility, so, even though you’re no longer Upstate, you’re still in prison) you have to walk through a metal detector. Sometimes you draw a lucky number and are ordered to strip search. Then at least a couple times per week, you’ll have to be urine tested to make sure you’re not drinking alcohol or taking drugs during the day. Kozlowski will be ordered to sit on a wooden bench with about 10 other inmates who’ve been selected at random to be tested. Your name will be yelled out, “Can you produce urine?” one of the corrections officers will bark. You better hope you can, because from the minute your name is called, you have a maximum of 3 hours to go to the bathroom. And by the way, the guard is in the bathroom with you the whole time. Need some water to help things? Sure, you can have one small Dixie cup per hour. If you haven’t gone in those first two hours, the pressure is really on. If you can’t produce urine after 3 hours, the facility thinks you have something to hide & there is a good chance you might be headed back Upstate within a week.
No such thing as cushy or single beds, every inmate at Lincoln sleeps in a bunk bed. After a month of work release Koz (as his fellow inmates up North affectionately called him) will be allowed one night out of the facility….a Saturday night. After two months of living there and participating in work release, he’ll get two back to back nights out. Eventually, sometime around June, if all goes well for him, he will be placed on “5 & 2” status. This means five nights away from Lincoln, and only 2 nights will he have to sleep there. Usually a Monday & Tuesday. Come that Wednesday morning, when the big metal doors open and releases him at 7:00am, Koz won’t have to show his face there until after work the next Monday. That might still sound like a hardship to most folks, but when you’ve been locked up and living in a 7×7 cell for seven years like he has, it’s just an amazing feeling to know you have five days of freedom. Five days to feel like a normal person again.
Life should get even better for Mr. Kozlowski, his first parole hearing is in the first week of April, and he could be out on parole as early as Aug. 25th.