'Stone walls," a poet once wrote, "do not a prison make." The same could be said of heated sidewalks and a wine cellar. Yet these are just some of the overwrought comforts of the "prison" in which former State Sen. Vincent J. Fumo will while away the conclusion of his all too merciful corruption sentence.
Fumo's mansion has an elevator, servants' quarters, a shooting range, and a total of 33 rooms - enough to spend each week of the remaining six months of his term in a different one. It lies in the city's serene Fairmount section, five miles and a world away from the North Philadelphia halfway house where many of Fumo's fellow felons prepare to reenter society in spartan dormitories. The fallen power broker got the latest in a long line of breaks when he was allowed to repair instead to stately Fumo manor.
The federal Bureau of Prisons allows offenders such comforts on a case-by-case basis, depending on their means and need for services. Fumo's chief aide and accomplice was not as lucky, having spent several weeks in a halfway house.
Convicted of defrauding the Senate and two nonprofits by using their employees and resources for personal and political purposes, Fumo is the second disgraced Pennsylvania politician to be "confined" in such a manner this year. Former state Supreme Court Justice Joan Orie Melvin, who was also convicted of using state employees for political ends, is being allowed to serve the entirety of her three-year sentence in her five-bedroom house in suburban Pittsburgh.
Fumo did have to spend almost four years in a real Kentucky hoosegow before retiring to his manse. By prosecutors' reckoning, though, he should have served 15 years or more for his 137-count conviction. U.S. District Judge Ronald Buckwalter's original 4½-year sentence was so lenient that an appeals court ordered him to revise it twice, adding six months and as much as $800,000 in restitution. Meanwhile, former city Treasurer Corey Kemp, who was convicted four years before Fumo on 110 fewer counts, is still in the Kentucky prison that released Fumo last week.
It's fitting in one respect that the former senator's sentence should end with another flourish of favoritism. Though he was once a feared and respected potentate, his inability to resist the privileges of power made him what he is today: a much smaller man in a big house.