Locals: I Never Even Really Think About it as Being a Prison

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MORGANTOWN, WV — Charlotte’s ex-Mayor Patrick Cannon arrived in West Virginia Monday, one day before he will report to the federal prison in Morgantown. Outside the prison complex, you can get a glimpse into the housing units for inmates there.

“It’s like, like a comfort prison,” said Scott Brode.  Brode can see the FCI Morgantown lights from his porch.  “If you needed to serve time, that was the place to serve it,” he continued.

Former inmates confirm that belief. In a Prison Talk forum, one wrote it’s like “…college without girls…” When asked if inmates are violent, he wrote, “…you’re safer than downtown in a large city.”

“My brother-in-law worked there, and he didn’t even carry a gun,” said Barbara McGinnis. “He just carried a little beeper.” 

Outside, it’s clearly a minimum-security facility. There are no tall fences, lined with razor wire. 

“I never even really think about it as being a prison,” said McGinnis. 

Cannon will live in one of the seven dorm-style units. Prison officials say there are cubicles or double rooms. He’ll have a locker, desk and cabinet. 

“They’re not really roughing it down there,” said McGinnis. 

Charlotte’s former mayor will work five days a week, according to his prison handbook. He will get paid. That money will go through the electronic system that will allow him to buy snacks and hygiene products at the prison store. He said in court he would like to attend the alcohol abuse program at the prison. Cannon could even have a chance to leave for brief periods if, for instance, a family member becomes critically ill.

His sentence is 44 months for pleading guilty to accepting bribes from undercover FBI agents posing as businessmen who said they wanted to bring companies to Charlotte. However, the prison handbook says the Bureau of Prisons can authorize absences with electronic monitoring. In an interview with Fortune Magazine, one prisoner said others simply walk out to buy cigarettes when no guards are watching.

“[We don’t] wonder if someone’s going to get loose tonight. You know, you don’t have that fear,” said Brode.

Brode says at least the prisoners go back, “Because they could escape if they wanted to.”

The FCI Morgantown warden declined to make any comments about the prison.