Down the hall came Inmate No. 78764-053, a fist of a man diminished by the loss of the $2,500 suit and the $800 shoes he had just been forced to exchange for a jumpsuit, following a guard to his cell.
First night in federal prison, and he was already headed to solitary confinement, his case too notorious for him to mingle safely with the others. He remembers the cell being clammy and dark. It made him think of Rikers Island, where his father had been held after being arrested when Pedro was 11. But this was a few grades higher: the Metropolitan Detention Center, in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, a windowless cage looming over the East River.
From the next cell came a voice, pricking him out of his numbness:
“Hey, Espada! Hang in there. You’re the senator, right?” the voice said. “My mother voted for you.”
Senator, he was: Pedro Espada Jr., once the third-most powerful man in New York State. And “senator” he remains — even today, three years into a five-year sentence for stealing money from a nonprofit.
There are a lot of “senators” in America’s federal prisons these days. In May, three more corrupt New York State lawmakers are expected to join the jumpsuited ranks, three more cautionary tales from a State Legislature with no apparent shortage of them.