Former Treasurer Ravenel reports to federal prison

Former state Treasurer Thomas Ravenel

Mary Ann Chastain

JESUP, Ga. — Former state Treasurer Thomas Ravenel began serving his 10-month prison term Thursday, arriving at the gate just ahead of the noon cutoff.

Ravenel arrived at the Jesup federal prison at 11:32 a.m. and headed behind bars to serve time on his cocaine charge.

The medium-security prison for men is 65 miles southwest of Savannah and 40 miles northwest of Brunswick. A friend drove Ravenel to the site.

Ravenel's processing into prison life is considered a protracted affair. Most of his personal effects will have to be left behind.

Commenting in general terms about new arrivals, the prison's public affairs officer said that most items usually are taken away, except for eyeglasses and their cases, plain wedding bands and money. Prisoners are allowed a necklace with a religious symbol.

Personal clothing is not permitted, said public affairs officer Jeff Coughlin. Inmates are issued a khaki uniform as well as boxer shorts, socks, shoes and bed linens. All new inmates are strip-searched as well. They are fingerprinted, photographed, and medical and social intake screening are conducted. Upon completion, they are sent to their appropriate housing assignment.

The daily routine changes little, Coughlin added. Inmates wake up anywhere from 5 to 6 a.m. Beds have to be made by 7:45 a.m. "Lights out" is at 11 p.m. Inmates are housed in two- or three-man cells or cubicles.

Most inmates, except those who are sick or a security risk, are required to work and get assigned to an institutional job. Some of them include food service worker, orderly, plumber, painter, warehouse worker or grounds-keeper. An average work day is approximately 7 1/2 hours. Inmates can earn between 12 cents and 40 cents per hour, depending on the job.

Ravenel, 45, a Republican, was elected state treasurer in 2006 and was in office for about six months before he was indicted by authorities who'd been tracking his drug use and the reputed cocaine use in the bars, clubs and mansions of Charleston. Officials say Ravenel used and shared the drug with friends but did not sell it. He pleaded guilty to one federal count of conspiracy with intent to distribute cocaine and was sentenced in March. The drug investigation is ongoing.

Ravenel also paid $250,000 in fines and restitution, including to the state of South Carolina to cover the cost of the Legislature's special election last year to pick his successor.

Reach Schuyler Kropf at skropf or 937-5551.