Conrad Black spent his last weekend of freedom dining and wining with friends in Florida.
Today he is due to report to prison to begin his six and a half year sentence following his conviction for defrauding investors in his media company, Hollinger International.
After 2 pm (7 pm UK time) he will officially be known as Prisoner No 18330-424.
But until then he has been trying to live his usual life. At his luxurious waterfront mansion in Palm Beach – just a two-hour drive from the prison to which he is due to report – 63-year-old Black and his wife, Barbara Amiel, hosted a lavish dinner party at which the guests sipped champagne and expensive wines.
Afterwards some of the guests reported that the former newspaper magnate, whose empire at one time spanned several continents, with papers in Chicago, London, Canada and Israel, appeared to be in good cheer.
One, a Canadian journalist, reported: “A lot of the time we spent talking politics and joking about old times – as if he didn’t have a care in the world”. As for his prison term his guest added: “He thinks he can handle it.”
Nevertheless his lawyer reported over the weekend that he was disappointed that his last minute bid to be allowed his freedom until his appeal has been heard was rejected .
The prison to which he has been assigned is low securityl but it does have bars. It has about 2,000 inmates and is located just a short drive from Florida’s most famous attraction Disneyworld. At night lights go out at 10pm.
Black will share a 6ft by 8ft cell with one other inmate. Instead of his tailored suits, he will wear a jailhouse jumpsuit. During the day he will be assigned such menial jobs around the prison as cutting grass, perhaps even cleaning toilets.
His pay starts at l2 cents an hour, and in time can move up to 40 cents an hour. He will however be limited to a monthly allowance of about $200. Meals typically range from fried chicken to macaroni.
As for his wife Barbara she will be allowed normal visiting rights. She is reportedly working on a book about their recent experiences. As a companion while her husband is incarcerated she has just bought a dog Friends report. “They are getting on fsbulously. It’s a big thing in her life”