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Chuck Turner in store for crochet & chili dogs Prison knot so tough for cell-ebrity

Chuck Turner in store for crochet & chili dogs
Prison knot so tough for cell-ebrity

By Laurel J. Sweet and Dave Wedge | Friday, March 25, 2011 | | Local Politics

Photo by Christopher Evans
Deposed politician Chuck Turner today will trade his view of Fort Hill for the Appalachian Mountains as he reports for a three-year hitch at Club Fed — 577 miles from the City Council office he sacrificed for a $1,000 kickback.

The 70-year-old Harvard University alum will likely be admitted to a minimum-security, dormitory-style camp at the Hazelton big house in Bruceton Mills, W.Va. — a facility nestled in the hills of Preston County, where he will be able to partake of crochet classes, drawing, painting and what an inmate orientation handbook calls “paper arts.” The camp has no locking cells, offers periodic Town Hall meetings for airing gripes and serves up fare including oatmeal, fruit, chili dogs, Tater Tots, lasagna and chicken fajitas, according to the Bureau of Federal Prisons.

Fellow New England politicians who belong to the elite ex-con fraternity yesterday had encouraging words for the Roxbury rabble-rouser.

“It’s just one day at a time,” said former state Sen. Joseph Timilty, 72, who served four months at a federal prison in Pennsylvania for mortgage fraud in the 1990s. “In order to get through that thing, you have to be disciplined.”

“Find the humor in it,” advised former Providence Mayor Vincent “Buddy” Cianci, 69, who logged four years at FCI Fort Dix in New Jersey on corruption charges. “There’s humor in everything.”

Turner, who represented District 7 for 11 years, was convicted last fall of accepting a bribe to push a nightclub liquor license for a Hub businessman secretly taping him for the FBI.

At Hazelton, according to the inmate orientation handbook, the ex-councilor will be allowed to sport the hairstyle of his preference (bald), and his beard and goatee can stay. He may not walk around with his underpants showing. The knit caps will have to stay home — only slammer-approved headgear allowed.

Inmates at the camp are customarily assigned to sling hash, landscape or perform general maintenance.

“It’s not a country club,” said Cianci of his own experience. “It’s not like those in charge were cruise directors in their previous lives. There are rules. If you mess up, you’ll find yourself in trouble.”

Turner will not, of course, be the only Bay State solon behind bars tomorrow.

Former state Sen. Dianne Wilkerson, 55, is two weeks into her own three-year bribery stint at the minimum-security camp at FCI Danbury in Connecticut.

“The fortunate part about her situation is she’s close to home,” said son Cornell Mills, an also-ran to succeed Turner in City Hall. “West Virginia is like another country.”

Mills plans to visit Wilkerson for the first time this weekend. He said she finds Danbury to be “very low-key” and is “looking forward to doing some teaching.”

Danbury is also where Patrice Tierney, 60, wife of U.S. Rep. John Tierney (D-Salem), on March 15 completed a monthlong stint for aiding and abetting the filing of false tax returns by her fugitive brother. The prison was previously the home-away-from-home of Boston Mayor James Michael Curley (mail fraud) and “Queen of Mean” hotel tycoon Leona Helmsley (tax evasion).

As for Turner, when he reports to Hazelton today, he will be screened for any medical, psychological or security issues, said Bureau of Federal Prisons spokesman Chris Burke.

“Chuck will be all right,” Timilty said. “I was treated fairly. You don’t get any special treatment and you don’t seek any special treatment.”

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