One of a dozen federal prisons I’ve served in is FCI Ray Brook. Ray Brook is just down the road from the massive ski jumps near Lake Placid in northern New York State, the site of the 1980 U.S. Winter Olympics.
If you’re of a certain age, you’ll remember those Olympics as the “Miracle on Ice,” in which the U.S. men’s hockey team won the gold medal. I remember Ray Brook somewhat differently…
The creation of FCI Ray Brook was a reaction to the 1972 Olympics in Munich, Germany, where a number of Israeli athletes were murdered in retaliation for the Black September War in 1970 in Jordan (which involved a number of other states, including Israel).
The BOP saw an opportunity to build a prison there as, initially, the Olympic’s Athlete’s Village. It was a secure facility that included five double-level housing units (which are named after Native American tribes), 2-man rooms, unit Jacuzzi’s, tennis courts, etc. At the conclusion of the Olympics, they simply pulled out the Jacuzzi’s, added some fencing and more razor wire, and, voila! instant prison.The population of the prison was even more eclectic than the usual federal facility. Many were Canadians, Native Americans, Cubans, Africans and other nationalities awaiting deportation, and at the time, many prisoners from Washington, DC. A population of about 1100 all toll. For several years it was also the site of John GottiJr’s imprisonment.
I’ve found during my 20 years in the federal Bureau of Prisons, that there has been a pretty steady 27% alien offender population. Truly, the BOP could be said to be one of America’s foremost institutions for the foreign acculturation of American society—once all the fancy ideals and trimmings are stripped off.
I expect that many of these “emissaries” will one day hold prominent positions in their own communities (many already do) with their own take on America. I doubt that this is the conscious intent of the U.S. criminal justice system.
As with the rest of the federal prison population, fully 97% of these prisoners are not violent offenders or sociopathic predators. Their offenses range from immigration violations to—oh, let’s see–one of my former cellmates ripped off a major U.S. bank for some $200 million. He once showed me a letter from his home-country bank, which stood by him and continued his employment while incarcerated–not that he needed the money.
Over the years, I’ve had acquaintances and cellmates from Germany, Israel, Palestine, Colombia, Cuba, Vietnam, Hong Kong, India, Nigeria—and so on. If one were to view Ray Brook after work hours, with all the inmates wearing their sports gear, it might still appear to be an Olympic Athletes’ Village, which, in a sense, I guess it is.