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Bernie Madoff reportedly earned 24 cents an hour for prison work

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Bernie Madoff, who was serving a 150-year sentence for his $65 billion Ponzi scheme when he recently died from chronic kidney disease and other ailments, reportedly spent his time behind bars earning 24 cents an hour working as an orderly.

The notorious 82-year-old died April 14 at the secure federal medical center in Butner, North Carolina, after refusing dialysis that likely would have prolonged his life, The City reported, citing the criminal mastermind’s 1,425-page Federal Bureau of Prisons file.

The heavily redacted document — which the outlet gained through a Freedom of Information Law request — provides an inside look into Madoff’s life behind bars after his stunning fall from grace.

His epic stock fraud — which came to light amid the global financial crisis of the late 2000s and is believed to be the biggest in Wall Street history — left more than 37,000 victims in 136 countries in its wake.

Madoff didn’t like his first assignment as an orderly in “education,” so he requested to be transferred to the chapel area, according to the records cited by The City.

Earning 24 cents an hour, he accumulated nearly 3,000 hours for a measly $710 before he became too ill to work, according to the report.

Madoff spent his last days at the Butner Federal Correctional Complex.
Madoff spent his last days at the Butner Federal Correctional Complex.

Despite getting mostly solid work reviews, Madoff also was hit with several subpar ones — including “fair” efforts in most categories, a “needs closer supervision than most,” a “not very dependable” and one “poor” designation, according to the report.

In 2013, he was disciplined for being in an unauthorized area without a pass, prison records cited by The City show. He told an officer who investigated the incident that he had to use the bathroom.

“I have kidney problems and couldn’t hold it,” he reportedly wrote.

But he apparently avoided a punishment, which was pushed off “pending clean conduct” for six months, the outlet reported.

Madoff also was constantly asked to sit for depositions by dozens of lawyers who sought to figure out a way to recoup money for their financially ruined clients, the outlet reported.

Meanwhile, prison officials denied almost all in-person visits, including multiple interview requests from international media outlets, due to security concerns. The only people who were permitted to see him were those with whom he already had relationships, The City reported.

Prison advocates cite Madoff’s case as an example of what they describe as “slave labor” in the slammer.

“I don’t know if Bernie Madoff is the most sympathetic person given what he took from people, but the reality is that what he underwent is what other incarcerated people are going through,” Bianca Tylek, head of Worth Rises, a group dedicated to ending prison profiteering, told The City.

The outlet noted that the 13th Amendment to the US Constitution abolished slavery “except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted.”

Bernie Madoff
Madoff’s stock fraud is believed to be the biggest in Wall Street history.
Dept. of Justice / Sipa Press

Criminal justice reformers want to cancel the “punishment” clause from the amendment and a resolution called the Abolition Amendment was introduced by Democrats in both houses in December, according to the outlet.

In 2019, Madoff’s lawyers filed a petition for a compassionate release petition, arguing that he had less than 18 months to live — but the warden said the inmate “could theoretically live a normal life span” if he decided to undergo dialysis, The City reported.

“This would make Mr. Madoff outside the definition / criteria for a terminal illness,” the warden reportedly said.

A federal judge denied Madoff’s request, saying he committed “one of the most egregious financial crimes of all time.”

Cynthia Arenson, 81, of Park Slope, who lost $700,000 because of Madoff, said she was happy he never got released.

And Arenson’s relative lost over $1 million in the scheme, and now makes $15 an hour doing retail work, the outlet reported.

“She hoped he suffered a lot — a lot of people feel that way,” said Arenson, adding that two of her own children also lost money with the late criminal.

At his death, Madoff’s worldly possessions amounted to a tube of Crest toothpaste, a Casio calculator, Heinz ketchup, four “religious” books and a few other small items, the documents show.

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