There’s a scene in “Goodfellas” where Ray Liota who plays Henry Hill and some other mafiaso are in the joint. They’re in a backroom or a mop closet at the prison but due to their Costra Nostra status they are living large, drinking wine, and eating Italian delicacies. Having a blast like they’re at a social club or something. Joking and laughing like they’re not even doing time. Living it up in the feds.
Well, some people might think that is just some Hollywood fantasy. I mean, it’s a movie, right? But I am here to tell you that scene is not some made up act for a movie. That type of get together or party happens all the time in the feds. It ain’t no country club and maybe prisoners aren’t eating as well as they were in the movie but they’re still eating good or as well as they can. Whatever they can buy from the commissary or get out of the kitchen. Prisoners in the Bureau of Prisons are trying to live as nice as they can even on the inside and a lot of the mob guys are living pretty well. Throwing parties for all different occasions. Like when a prisoner is getting released and going home or on holidays like Christmas or on someone’s birthday or for the time honored American tradition, the Super Bowl party. Those are the most popular and it’s not just the mafia guys throwing them. The Spanish, Black, and Muslim communities get in on the act also. But in prison nobody can throw a party like the wiseguys and most dudes on the block are trying to get down.
When I was at FCI Fort Dix, a low security prison in central New Jersey a couple of years ago I saw and attended a lot of prison mob parties. Let me first state that I am in no way connected or affiliated or otherwise a member of any organized crime family. Yes, I have an Italian last name but my father and grandfather were career military men and I grew up in the suburbs of California. Not exactly a mafia hotbed but anyway during my 11 calendars in the feds I have met and associated with many east coast mafia types. Some of them were the real genuine thing while many other were fake, wanna-be, hang-on-the-coattai1s type. It seems that all these east coast dudes in federal prisons of the Caucasian persuasion want to be connected or down with the mob. I don’t know why, but hey, forget about it. I guess they’ve seen to many movies.
In Fort Dix though they had lots of mafia dudes, real and imagined. There were the New York guys, the Philly guys, and the Jersey guys. Most of them stayed with own cliques or crews but when some Big Willie Joe Mafia guy threw a social they all came out of the woodwork and made an appearance. In building 5702 on the eastside of the compound much parties were thrown. This was due to the presence of “Little Nick” Corozzo. A reputed Gambino capo and personal friend of John Gotti who was supposedly in line to take over the Gambino family. He was doing a short bid and considered himself lucky. And at Fort Dix he was the center of mafia attention on the compound.
For the parties he threw, for whatever reason, usually when one of his guys was going home, he would get his crew of Boston roughnecks to hold down a multi-purpose room on the second floor. Effectively the room was off limits unless you were invited to the party. These events would usually be held in the afternoons on the weekend or after the count on weekdays and would usually last several hours as the waves of mafiaso, connected guys, wanna-be’s, hangers on, and respected prisoners showed up, paid their respects, ate or drank a little then left to make room for the next wave. Because for real, it wasn’t no banquet hall “Little Nick” was renting. It was a tiny little multi-purpose room adjacent to the row of dorm rooms where prisoners slept. Usually it was used as a card room or game room to play dominoes and the like but when “Little Nick” wanted, it was turned into a sort of mafia social club.
There would be a couple of tables pushed together with a white sheet laid overtop like a tablecloth. A bunch or catered like appetizers and snacks would be spread out over the table on cardboard trays. Crackers with tuna salad, deviled eggs, pepperoni slices with olives and cheese, little burritos, chocolate chip cookies, various types of chips- basically anything that could be bought from the commissary or stolen from the kitchen. Usually a Mexican or Colombian prisoner would be hired to prepare all the snacks and appetizers and have them ready at the appointed time and place. It wasn’t fancy by real world standards but in the joint it was nice. Sort of like a catered banquet almost.
Also there would be a trashcan filled with ice and sodas- Pepsi, Coke, Mountain Dew, Minute Maid Orange, Sprite, etc. and the Mexican or Colombian who was overseeing the festivities a “Little Nick’s” behalf would be running back and forth to the microwave and hot water dispenser preparing cappuccinos, coffee, or tea for prisoners as they arrive. Paper plates, napkins, and paper cups would complete the set up so prisoners could pass by the buffet table, fill up their plate, grab a soda or coffee, then sit against the wall in a folding metal chair congratulating the guy who was going home, joking, laughing, making future plans, and reminiscing.
These events were usually pretty crowded and people would be spilling out into the hallway making room for the new guys showing up. The whole mafia cheek kissing, handshakes, and slaps on the back would go around as every new prisoner showed up making their way to greet the host, “Little Nick” and whoever the honored guest and party was being thrown f or.
A lot of other prisoners who weren’t Italian or weren’t invited would walk by the multipurpose room looking on with envy. If “Little Nick” saw them he would tell one of his crew to give them a soda or something and send them on their way. Generosity was one thing but having undesirables hanging out at a mob party. No way. “Little Nick” would rather swim with the fishes.
Most times a prisoner who had a good rapport with the cop working the unit would go to him in advance and explain what was going on so the cop wouldn’t get all excited and alarmed and hit the deuces when he saw a big group of guidos loitering around his building. Most cops didn’t have a problem with it and sometimes when the Lieutenant made his rounds he would even drop by the mixer and pay his respects. But I’ve seen Lieutenants bust up the little parties too to everyone’s dismay. And if anyone complained they’d go straight to the hole. Imagine that- going to 24 hour lockdown because you were having a birthday party. Forget about it.
The mob guys are funny too. They may have all these regional and inter-family beefs and talk mad shit behind each other’s backs but when there’s some pasta or free food to be had they put on their best face and all come together like the best of friends. Nothing like a bowl of prison microwave prepared spaghetti to mend differences. And I’ve seen mob dudes get all offended to if they’re not invited to a certain party or don’t get their bowl of pasta. They might be ready to whack somebody. Good thing they don’t have any guns in federal prison. Because for real, a lot of these mob guys aren’t trying to fight. They’re straight killers and the old saying goes boys fight, men kill. So ain’t no mob guy fist fighting, he’s whacking someone, if only he had a gun. Imagine being whacked because you didn’t offer the Gambino capo a bowl of pasta.
I spent some time at FCI Fairton also which is a medium to high security joint in southern New Jersey about 45 minutes away from Atlantic City. At Fairton I just happened to be in the unit, B-Left, with Michael Perna, the consigliere from the New Jersey branch or the Luchassie crime family. Now Michael Perna was a class guy. He held pasta dinners every Sunday for all the Italians on the block. He was literally feeding 15 or 16 guys every weekend. He was generous to say the least. And he went all out for holidays and special occasions. His Christmas parties were legendary.
The prisoners who cooked for him, usually some Italian guy from Boston or Philly spent all day cooking the sauce or gravy as Mikey called, it. Heavy on the garlic and pepperoni, but very smooth and zesty, the red sauce always turned out nice. Three or four card tables were put together in the common area to form a banquet table and white sheets were laid overtop like tablecloths as all the seats were arranged. Made guys at one end with Mikey and the other Italians and hangers on at the opposite end away from the really good conversations.
Appetizers consisting of salami and pepperoni slices, mozzarella and Velveeta cheese, olives, and Townhouse Crackers were prepared and ready to serve on a cardboard tray. A mop bucket filled with ice and sodas sat at the foot of the table. As all 15 or 20 guys sat down at the table after the 4:00 pm stand up count. Paper plates were handed out as the appetizers were passed around with Mikey always offering more and making sure everybody was served. Then the main course of ziti with red sauce was served with a dash of parmesan on top in plastic microwave bowls. As everyone ate with their plastic utensils and drank sodas dudes talked and joked wishing each other Merry Christmas. Then for desert chocolate donuts were set out along with Italian sweetbread and chocolate-mint cookies. For real, the spread wasn’t bed. Mikey always threw a nice dinner party. But it was more an in house thing because previously Mikey had problems with the SIS Lieutenant who is in charge of investigating occurrences at the prison. Sort of like the FBI on the inside.
Well, one of Mikey’s guys had went home some time before and Mikey had thrown him a party with guys from all the other units stopping by B-Left and joining in the festivities. The unit cop had OK’d it so Mikey thought he was in the clear. But some inmate police or jailhouse snitch had dropped a note to SIS informing on the party and about a week after Mikey’s guy was released Mikey was called down to see the SIS Lieutenant.
The SIS Lieutenant told Mikey that he knew about the party and that he had it all on tape and was going through the tape to identify all the all the prisoners who had visited B-left on the day of the party. The SIS cop seemed to think something nefarious was going on. Mikey tried to explain that it wasn’t a big deal, just a going away party for one of his guys but the SIS Lieutenant seemed to take the matter very seriously and told Mikey that if he didn’t cease and desist with his party throwing activities that he would be thrown in the hole. He also told Mikey that he would be informing the probation officer of the prisoner who went home that Mikey had thrown him a going away party before he left the institution Like this was some kind of violation of his probation.
But Mikey just kindly told the SIS Lieutenant that he wouldn’t throw anymore parties and blew the guy off. Fucking jerk off, he probably thought. But that’s how it is in here. Imagine the audacity of the SIS Lieutenant to actually think that he could get the released prisoners probation revoked because Mikey threw him a going away party. Forget about it. And by the way Mikey doesn’t throw mob parties anymore he holds dinners.
Fucked up shit is some people don’t even eat that good on the outside.