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A helicopter jailbreak, a Hollywood madam, and a billionaire: A look inside Felicity Huffman’s prison

Felicity Huffman and her husband, William H. Macy (left), walk out of John Joseph Moakley United States Courthouse in Boston on Sept. 13. Nic Antaya for The Boston Globe

For the next two weeks, Felicity Huffman will sport a khaki uniform and report for roll call as she completes her sentence for her role in the nationwide college admissions scandal. The Hollywood star joins a sordid list of high-profile inmates who have served time at the Federal Correction Institution in Dublin, Calif.

The Oscar nominee reported Tuesday to the low-security federal prison to begin serving a 14-day sentence for her role in the cheating scheme. The prison, which is located roughly 35 miles east of downtown San Francisco in the affluent town of Dublin, became a female-only lockup in 2012. But in years past, FCI Dublin has housed inmates both male and female of outsized stardom and scandal.


Patty Hearst, the granddaughter of American publishing magnate William Randolph Hearst, landed at the prison in 1976, two years after she robbed a bank while kidnapped and indoctrinated by a revolutionary terrorist group, the Symbionese Liberation Army. She served 21 months before her seven-year sentence was commuted by President Jimmy Carter.

Heidi Fleiss, dubbed the “Hollywood Madam,” spent 20 months at FCI Dublin after being convicted in 1996 of tax evasion related to her management of a Hollywood prostitution ring that catered to high-profile clients in the entertainment industry.

From left to right: Patricia Hearst, Michael Milken and Heidi Fleiss have served time at the Federal Correction Institution in Dublin, Calif.Bettmann via Getty Images, Reuters and Los Angeles Times via AP

The prison also briefly housed the only Los Angeles police officers convicted in connection with the 1991 Rodney King beating. Stacey Koon, a sergeant who shot King twice with an electronic dart gun, and Laurence Powell, an officer who repeatedly struck King with a baton, served 30 months at FCI Dublin for violating King’s civil rights.

Politicians also have called the Dublin lockup home. The one-time prime minister of Ukraine, Pavlo Lazarenko, spent eight years at the California prison after being convicted in 2004 of money laundering, extortion, and fraud after he siphoned millions of dollars from the government of Ukraine into his personal accounts and attempted to hide some $21 million from American banks.


Also once assigned a FCI Dublin number? Sara Jane Moore, who served 32 years after attempting to assassinate President Gerald Ford in 1975; Rita Lavelle, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency’s toxic waste Superfund under President Ronald Reagan who was convicted of perjury and obstruction of justice in 1984; and Michael Milken, junk bond king and billionaire financier who pleaded guilty to securities fraud in 1990.

The prison was also the scene of a jailbreak worthy of the silver screen in 1986 when inmate Ronald McIntosh escaped, hijacked a helicopter, and returned to FCI Dublin to lift his lover and fellow inmate, Samantha Lopez, to freedom. The couple was captured 10 days after the airborne adventure while picking up wedding rings in a Sacramento jewelry store, according to a report by the San Francisco Chronicle.

The Federal Correctional Institution in Dublin, Calif. Ben Margot/file/Associated Press

During her imprisonment, Huffman may cross paths with Stella Nickell, an Oregon woman convicted in 1988 of product tampering after she filled Excedrin capsules with lethal cyanide, resulting in the deaths of her husband, Bruce Nickell, and a woman named Sue Snow. Nickell, now 76, is set to be released in 2040.

Huffman’s placement at the prison came at the request of her attorney. After US District Judge Indira Talwani sentenced Huffman to two weeks behind bars, Boston-based lawyer Martin Murphy asked that she do her time at the northern California lockup so that she could be close to her family.


The small, low-security prison sits within the suburban city of Dublin. Money magazine ranked the city, which boasts 260 days of clear skies per year and a median family income of $141,471, as number seven on its list of “The Best Places to Live” in 2018.

Forbes listed the prison as one of America’s 10 cushiest lockups in 2009, but more recent reports suggest overcrowding. Despite having a designed facility capacity of 896, a recent audit listed 1.052 inmates at the main facility and 175 inmates at a satellite camp. An FCI Dublin official declined to say whether Huffman was housed at the main facility or the camp.

Sara Jane Moore, who served 32 years after attempting to assassinate President Gerald Ford in 1975JP/Associated Press

Like all inmates, the “Desperate Housewives” star will be required to make her bed by 6 a.m., be in her cell for the five daily inmate counts, and don a green or khaki uniform bearing her name and inmate number. In addition to a commissary offering the likes of salmon, olives, and mixed nuts, the prison hosts a number of educational opportunities, including parenting and post-secondary classes, according to an orientation handbook posted online.

Upon her release, Huffman will need to log 250 hours of community service. She is one of the dozens of defendants embroiled in the college admissions scheme, in which wealthy parents cut fat checks to admitted ringleader William “Rick” Singer to get their children falsely classified as athletic recruits at fancy schools, or to facilitate cheating on the kids’ SAT and ACT exams.


Hanna can be reached at hanna.krueger@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter at @hannskrueger.