Ghislaine Maxwell has described how a fellow convict plotted her murder while she was sleeping in her jail bed.
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She says: “There was a woman who made a threat to act in a plan to murder me as I was sleeping. That is real. That happened.”
After being accused of recruiting girls as young as 14 to be abused by her ex-lover, financier Jeffrey Epstein, Maxwell was found guilty on five counts, including trafficking a minor, and given a 20-year prison sentence in December.
Whilst pending a sex trafficking trial in 2019, Epstein was discovered dead in his jail.
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Maxwell adds: “Prisons are dangerous. I would tell anybody to do everything possible to avoid jail.
“Jails are not safe spaces. I have seen guards selling drugs and, God, being inappropriate in every which way.”
Maggoty food, a rat-infested cell, sleep deprivation, and acute hunger—to the point where she had to start consuming Vaseline—have all been part of her struggle in jail.
She has been transferred to a low-security Florida jail since July. However, she is currently confined to a Covid lockdown and spends the majority of her time in an 8 by 10.5 foot “cube” that is so small that she and her three cellmates alternate standing up in it.
She said: “The food in Brooklyn was truly, truly terrible. One day I was so hungry that I ate the only thing I had — Vaseline.” She claimed she believed it was mayonnaise, but it was nonetheless “very disgusting.”
Maxwell also described in detail how prison administrators put her on a torturous suicide watch for two weeks starting on June 24 of this year as “punishment” for raising concerns about her filthy, rat-infested cell. She was only given small amounts of bread, cheese, and baloney sausage to eat.
She insisted as she revealed for the first time the whole horror of that experience: “I have never been suicidal. It has never crossed my mind in my entire life. The reason they put me on suicide watch was as a punishment because I have filed a number of grievances.
“First, they strip you of any remaining shred of dignity you have. They have you with no clothes, and put you in a suicide smock with Velcro straps on it. So there’s nothing to protect your modesty.”
“They have you with no clothes, and put you in a suicide smock with Velcro straps on it. So there’s nothing to protect your modesty.”
Maxwell, who dropped more than a stone in the nightmarish MDC, described her suicide watch cell as having “sub-zero temperatures.”
“So you literally are freezing, with neon lights. They don’t feed you. When you’re on suicide watch, you have access to nothing. There’s nothing in the room. You’re not allowed a toothbrush. You’re not allowed anything to drink.
“Every time you want the bathroom, they give you two little sheets of toilet roll. When they did feed me, I was fed the same meal for breakfast, lunch and dinner. It was two pieces of bread, a piece of baloney and a piece of cheese.
“I’m a vegetarian so I couldn’t eat the baloney. And the cheese had been removed from the plastic and had fingerprints on it. I had no soap and I wasn’t allowed to shower. And I had two cameras on me all the time.”
She asked to be transferred several times. Her lawyers claimed that personnel watched on her around the clock, as if she were the film monster Hannibal Lecter.
She was eventually moved to Tallahassee Federal Correctional Institution in Florida approximately three months ago. The next recorded interview started from there.
Despite admitting that she is treated better there, Maxwell claims she has less liberty than she does in Brooklyn. To keep Covid under control, the prison was placed on code-red lockdown, which meant she was confined to her cell for the majority of the day.
“It’s actually more restricted, which is shocking,” she said.
“We’re on code-red here so there’s no recreation, only for a maximum of an hour. You’re not allowed outside. They don’t give it to you all the time. Otherwise you have to stay on the unit with a maximum capacity of 120 people.
“The only place you can sit is on your bunk bed. I’m in a cube that’s 126 inches by 93 inches. And you have four people in that cube. You only have a little cupboard about 2ft by 3ft to put your stuff.
“If this place ever came off code-red, it would definitely be an improvement. I have not experienced any of the gross violations of my rights that I experienced at MDC. But it’s still a jail.”
When told that Tallahassee had been dubbed a “cushy country club,” she responded: “I can assure you it’s very far from a cushy country club. You’re locked up the entire time and if they let you out for an hour there’s no communal area to get together, there’s not a chair for everybody, there’s no way to watch TV. And when I arrived here, there were only two phones.”
Despite the difficulties, she appears to be happier in Florida than in Brooklyn. She stated: “It was a compound. So I saw the sunlight for the first time.” Asked about her routine, Maxwell said: “They wake you up at six. Then they call for those who are taking medication. So they have to go out and get their pills.”
At 6.20 am, milk, cereal, and an apple make up breakfast.
“I will be happy never to see an apple [again],” she said. “I haven’t seen a piece of fruit except an apple. You’d think in Florida, at least there’d be an orange. But no.”
She acknowledges, however, that the food is “significantlyby a large margin” superior there.
Maxwell had just started work in the Education Centre legal library at 7.30 a.m. The library is around 5 feet square, with no computer or internet connectivity, only an old manual typewriter. Inmates are permitted to send emails to a limited number of designated contacts.
You go to what they call lunch at 10:30 am, after which nothing happens until you have to get up and be counted at 4 pm.
“After that you go and get what’s called the main evening meal and you get approximately 20 minutes to eat. The lights go out at around 10pm.”
Jails are not safe
The modern languages graduate was occasionally permitted to teach yoga and “English to the Spanish ladies and Spanish to the English ladies” in her New York cell.
She has volunteered to translate documents for non-English speakers and teach yoga in Florida. Additionally, she is focusing on two projects: enhancing the prison’s recycling performance and assisting a cancer charity.
“Some of the ladies never leave the unit, they just sit on their beds,” she said. “I’m sad about that. So I thought I could invite them to donate a dollar from their commissary [jail spending money] to the local Tallahassee Memorial Cancer Foundation. In return they would go out and walk one time around in the outside yard.”
Along with 11 other inmates, she is collaborating to decrease the usage of plastic cutlery and Styrofoam plates.
“If I do it right, I should be able to save some items from going into the landfill, in keeping with what I’ve done for 12 years on environmental projects. Rather than look at what I lost, I look at what I’ve gained, and then I have to help other people.
“Until you’ve been here, you really don’t understand how appalling it is. The incarcerated population has been demonised. These people deserve a second opportunity to make a contribution to society.”
Although it is obvious that she feels more at ease now, she continued, “Jails are not safe spaces.” She described seeing guards sell drugs, pass out, and “being inappropriate in every way.”
“There are people who work for the Bureau of Prisons who clearly should not have care of vulnerable people. But I have also met people of great calibre who take their jobs very seriously.
“I am perfectly able to live and work here. If you don’t get involved in illegal activities in jail you could probably be all right.”
Epstein, however, was not. After a series of prison mistakes were uncovered, the examiner’s finding of suicide by hanging was contested.
“The Bureau of Prisons has failed to release the autopsy report, and allegedly none of the cameras were working,” Maxwell said. “Allegedly, the guards were sleeping. I think that unexplained death is profoundly suspicious.
“I’ve never been lied to so many times as I have at that detention centre. It was a culture of untruth, a culture of disrespect that frankly needs to be brought to light.”