Incarceration is never easy, but the buzzy convictions of Varsity Blues perps Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman, who completed her prison sentence at Dublin Federal Correctional Institute last year, have sparked curiosity about what life on the inside is really like for the rich and powerful.
Best known for her role as Aunt Becky on Full House, Loughlin specifically requested to serve her two months at California’s Victorville Federal Correctional Institute after pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud back in May. She must surrender by November 19 to the minimum-security prison which, at first glance, seems to be way more “camp cupcake” than correctional complex.
Victorville has a history of housing white collar criminals and celebrities, including MLB player Lenny Dykstra and Dance Moms star Abby Lee Miller, who pled guilty to felony bankruptcy fraud and served eight months. Like Miller, Louglin will stay at the women’s satellite camp, which is a two hour drive from her new $9.5 million Hidden Hills mansion. According to the inmate handbook, recreational activities include pilates, spin class, yoga, personal training, and landscape painting.
But former inmate Holli Coulman told ELLE.com via phone not to be fooled by Victorville’s famous former prisoners and cushy activity list. “This is not some club fed,” Coulman said. “Lori is stepping into a very awful time to have to go [to prison].”
Coulman, who started working as a prison consultant after a 13-month stint at Victorville for wire fraud, now advises clients serving time there. She said the number of female inmates is down from 375 to 220 due to COVID-19, and newcomers are required to quarantine before entering. “While some inmates will want to curry favors with Lori because of her fame, most will ignore her or won’t have any sympathy for her,” Coulman said. “She’ll have to learn the ropes on her own.”
Coulman’s own intake process included a DNA test and a “squat and cough” search to dislodge any objects. Then she was handed a uniform and a laundry bag by guards she recalls being “tough, petty, and nasty.”
New inmates or “newbies,” as they’re called at Victorville, clean the bathrooms. They live in bunk rooms Coulman likens to an “empty Costco with cinder block walls that are about 12 feet high.” Romantic relationships are common between female inmates. “Many of the women have husbands or boyfriends, but they’ve been in so long, they get desperate to feel something,” she said. “If you put one pant leg up while you walk around, that means you’re looking for a woman.”
Mornings start at 5:30 a.m, and beds are expected to be made “military style,” with extra blankets folded at the foot of the bed and shoes arranged underneath. Uniforms are mandatory on week days, with the exception of recreation time. In addition to a “leisure library” with magazines and books, inmates can take music lessons like songwriting, accordion, ukulele, guitar tablature, and guitar theory.
“There are four archaic old computers, which inmates have access to at five cents a minute,” Coulman said. “But it’s not a given that Lori’s family will be approved to receive her emails right away.”
Bathroom stalls have doors — which Coulman said is unusual for a women’s prison — and small anterooms for the showers. Hygiene products like soaps and shower shoes can be purchased at commissary, but due to COVID-19 restrictions, the shop is shut down, Coulman said. The dining hall is also closed, and bagged meals are being provided instead. Visitations are no longer allowed.
The security at Victorville is incredibly low, Coulman said, and several breakouts have occurred since the start of the pandemic. In March, two female inmates escaped Victorville, bringing the total number of escapees that month to five. According to the Victorville Daily Press, the United States Marshals Service and other law enforcement agencies were notified, and an internal investigation has since been launched.
Loughlin has reportedly hired a “prison expert” to “help her learn the ropes.” Abby Lee Miller, who spent eight months there for bankruptcy fraud, said Loughlin will be “absolutely fine” in an interview with Hollywood Life, citing her own experience taking private Spanish lessons and losing 127 pounds.
“People don’t love to hate her like my character, like what I was on television,” Miller said. “People love to hate me, where she is this nice ray of sunshine and that’s what people think she is.”
But Coulman said it’s not the other inmates Loughlin needs to worry about. “The biggest concern [at Victorville] is the aggression of the officers, who could make her experience very unpleasant,” she said. “They don’t care that she’s a celebrity, and, in fact, a lot of them will relish the opportunity to make her cry. Because of her crime, they feel she’s an entitled person.”
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