Inside Sam Bankman-Fried’s daily life at a tough Brooklyn detention center, where he mops floors and eats cheap PBJs.

Inside Sam Bankman-Fried's daily life at a tough Brooklyn detention center, where he mops floors and eats cheap PBJs.

From Penthouse to Prison: The Rocky Road of Sam Bankman-Fried


While Bankman-Fried’s representatives have stayed quiet on his first few days at the Metropolitan Detention Center (MDC), the latest setback highlights not only his rapid fall from grace but also what he may have to become accustomed to, depending on the conclusion of his federal trial that’s set for early October.

The Rocky Road to Prison

Following November’s collapse of FTX, the crypto exchange founded by Bankman-Fried once valued at $32 billion, authorities arrested him at his luxury penthouse in the Bahamas in mid-December. He spent over a week in Nassau’s Fox Hill Facility, a notorious prison where inmates have complained about having to sleep on the ground in rat-infested cells. Bankman-Fried was kept in the medical unit, where prison staff reportedly honored his vegan diet with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

Following his extradition to the U.S., a judge granted Bankman-Fried generous conditions, releasing him on a $250 million bail package to live with his parents, both professors at Stanford University. They were required to put up their Palo Alto home as collateral, with two other cosigners—the dean emeritus of Stanford Law School and a senior research scientist at Stanford—agreeing to two additional bonds totaling $700,000.

Despite the leniency, Bankman-Fried began to test the limits of the conditions, including using a VPN to mask his internet connection to watch football, as well as sending texts to a key witness in his upcoming trial. Prosecutors successfully lobbied to tighten his restrictions and access to the internet, including a whitelist of websites he could access.

The last straw came after prosecutors alleged that Bankman-Fried had leaked the private diaries of the former Alameda executive, and his one-time girlfriend, Caroline Ellison, to a New York Times reporter. While his lawyers admitted to the leak, they argued that he was exercising his First Amendment rights. On Friday, the judge overseeing the case disagreed, finding there was probable cause that Bankman-Fried had tampered with witnesses at least twice. While his lawyers tried to stay the decision until an appeal, the judge rejected the request, and Bankman-Fried was taken away in handcuffs.

Inside the Metropolitan Detention Center

Although Bankman-Fried’s lawyers lobbied to have him sent to a more hospitable location, with more consistent internet access, Kaplan signaled he would be sent to MDC in Brooklyn while that request was processed.

Located in the Sunset Park neighborhood, MDC houses detainees awaiting federal trials in New York City—a distinction previously held by the Manhattan Correctional Center, where Jeffrey Epstein infamously killed himself. The Manhattan facility is closed for improvements, according to ANBLE.

MDC has its share of well-known inmates, including Juan Orlando Hernández, the former president of Honduras, who’s awaiting trial for drug charges, and Miles Guo, a Chinese businessman arrested for an alleged $1 billion crypto fraud conspiracy. Hernández’s lawyers have said that he is being held like a “prisoner of war.”

MDC has long been criticized by politicians and activists. In 2019, a federal agency investigated a week-long power outage that left more than 1,600 inmates in freezing temperatures and without the ability to speak with their lawyers. An investigation by the watchdog group American Oversight uncovered public records of excessive force, delays in medical care, and sanitation issues. Demonstrations in 2021 by human rights groups also highlighted staffing shortages that contributed to the dangerous conditions.

Politicians have continued to target MDC, with four candidates for a New York congressional seat holding a press conference in 2022 to call for unannounced inspections. In a press release from the same year, a group of criminal defense lawyers described the facility’s conditions as “inhumane.”

“While we do not comment on anecdotal allegations, we can inform you that the Federal Bureau of Prisons takes seriously our duty to protect the individuals entrusted in our custody and maintain the safety of employees and the community. We make every effort to ensure the physical safety of individuals confined to our facilities through a controlled environment that is secure and humane,” Federal Bureau of Prisons spokesperson Benjamin O’Cone told ANBLE in a statement.

Bankman-Fried’s lawyers did not respond to a request for comment.

Martin Shkreli, another high-profile former inmate of MDC, noted that Bankman-Fried’s time at the facility will likely be determined by which unit he’s placed in.

“Big question for SBF is: does MDC let him see the general population (floors 5 through 7) or stick him in unit 8-4 (protective custody). If I were him, I’d want to be on the 8th floor. No action (random MS-13 stabbings, cell phones, drugs), less crowded, boring as hell.” – Martin Shkreli (e/acc) (@wagieeacc) August 14, 2023

A 2021 orientation handbook for MDC inmates lays out what Bankman-Fried can expect during his time at the facility. He will wake up at 6 a.m. and be responsible for keeping his cell clean, which includes mopping the floor, removing trash, and making his bed. Lunch is served at 11 a.m., and dinner after a 4 p.m. count.

The detention center will provide toothpaste, a toothbrush, and a razor. Any clothing purchased from the commissary must be gray or white. Even his access to books and newspapers will be limited to what can fit in a designated storage space, although he will be allowed to keep a radio or MP3 player. After a medical clearance, he might be assigned a job, which could include food service or something at the detention facility’s maintenance shop.

According to the handbook, every two weeks, Bankman-Fried will have the ability to spend $150 at the commissary. In a separate document, his standard meal of peanut butter and jelly is listed at $3.65. He’s allowed to buy two.

As Sam Bankman-Fried adjusts to his newfound reality within the walls of the Metropolitan Detention Center, he faces the uncertainty of a trial that will determine his fate. From the luxurious lifestyle of a crypto exchange founder to the confines of a prison cell, the road he now travels is filled with challenges and potential consequences. Whether MDC can provide a safe and humane environment during his time there remains a subject of debate, but for now, Bankman-Fried must navigate the daily routines and strict rules outlined in the handbook, while awaiting the outcome of his trial.