The Laundry Man by Kenneth Rijock ( Penguin/Random House UK)

Saturday, June 2, 2012


In the aftermath of the uproar over why the Federal Bureau of Prisons designated convicted arms trafficker, Viktor Bout, for the maximum-security "Supermax" Prison on Florence, Colorado, the BOP has reassigned him to the medium-security institution in Marion, Illinois*. Bout's sentencing judge, Shira Scheindlin, who had recommended that Bout be assigned to a prison in the New York Metropolitan area, had, in a telephone conference, declined to intercede; the BOP has sole discretion regarding where an inmate serves his sentence. The judge had previously ordered Bout moved from solitary confinement whilst he was being held in pre-trial confinement in a New York City detention centre, ruling that he was neither an escape risk, nor a threat when held in general population.

USP Marion, Illinois

Bout's attorney, Albert Dayan, has objected to the Illinois prison designation;

(1) It is remote and would make visits from the Russian Consulate difficult.

(2) Relatives, including Bout's wife, would be required to undertake substantial travel to see him.

(3) It would interfere with Bout's right to assist his attorney with his pending appeal.

It is true that there are a number of Federal Prisons in the New York area, and the question remains: is the United States Government deliberately making incarceration as difficult as possible for Viktor Bout ? There are obvious political aspects to this case. The Russian Government has taken an interest in Bout's welfare, and asserts that he was improperly convicted of arms trafficking, and sentenced to 25 years in prison, to hide the fact that he assisted the United States.

Having been incarcerated myself in my younger days, I am wondering why the details of his substantial assistance to the United States were not taken into account, and a more measured sentence meted out. Unfortunately, people with personal knowledge have advised me that his assistance, rendered for America's intelligence services, could prove embarrassing when exposed in detail, and will therefore remain in the shadows.  I am also wondering why the BOP has treated him in such a strict manner, but I assume it is on orders from those agencies.

Will he win his appeal ? Statistically, he has but a small chance to obtain a reversal of his Federal conviction, but we await the filing of the briefs to ascertain whether there are any substantive or procedural issues.

At present, BOP records show that Bout is still located at the Brooklyn, New York Federal Detention Centre where he awaited his trial. When he is transferred, we will update our readers accordingly.
* USP Marion, though originally a penitentiary for high-security inmates, is now medium-security, due to the needs of the Bureau of Prisons.

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