(WIVB)– Former Congressman Chris Collins went from election winner to federal prisoner to free man in a matter of two years.
Collins thought he was heading to a minimum-security facility in Pensacola, when he surrendered to authorities on October 13.
Instead, he was taken to FCI Marianna, a medium-security prison about an hour and a half away, and kept there for three weeks, a week longer than his required 14-day quarantine period.
Former Member of Congress Chris Collins said, “Effectively, solitary confinement in a cell with four walls and a steel door with a little grate that they push the food through. Did not get outside, had no access to email, the phones, visitation and three times a week was handcuffed and basically dragged to a shower facility where I could take a shower three times a week.”
Collins says guards, staff and the warden targeted him because he was a former congressman.
“You go to the BOP website and they talk about treating people with respect and training and it’s all total BS. I saw it at Marianna and I saw it in Pensacola, which tells me it’s top to bottom in the Bureau of prisons,” said Collins.
Life on the inside never got easier for Collins, and though he knew a presidential pardon was a possibility, he feared relying on hope to be his guide.
Then in the evening of December 22, Collins was ordered to report to the front office.
“Got another shout out and was told to report to the front office area, a woman she’s called the secretary, she said Mr. Collins you’re going home tonight, the president has pardoned you.
“I broke down. I said I can’t believe I am getting out of this hell hole it was very emotional.”Chris Collins, Former Member of Congress
Collins is now dedicating at least a part of his future efforts, which include a weekly podcast and social media presence, to prison reform.
Collins tells us, “And because of my pardon, I have nothing to fear from the Bureau of prisons, so I can be an honest spokesperson for the conditions I saw, which are appalling. And which every person in America should be appalled that American citizens are being treated this way.”
Dave Greber is an award-winning anchor and reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 2015. See more of his work here.