News, Culture & Society

Former Mrs. Florida dishes on her 30-day stint in prison

Until she served a short stint at Miami’s Federal Detention Center, former Mrs. Florida Karyn Turk thought she’d seen it all.

But not even binge-watching Orange Is The New Black on Netflix, she said, prepared her for 30 days in the slammer, the result of a guilty plea to stealing her dying mother’s social security checks.

Every single day, she told DailyMail.com in an exclusive interview days after she was released, brought its share of eyebrow-raising, eye-rolling, forehead-slapping moments.

Like when Turk, a frequent Mar-a-Lago visitor and conservative commentator on cable news, watched fellow inmates instantly create an elaborate communication network between cells throughout the building.

‘It takes fat bodies, which are plentiful in prison, but it works,’ the pageant-skinny Turk told DailyMail.com in her first post-prison interview. 

Former Mrs. Florida Karyn Turk sat down for an exclusive interview with DailyMail.com after being released from prison after 30 days

Last October, Turk pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor count of social security fraud for cashing $46,000 of her mother Ilse Schafer's social security checks. Turk claimed she used the money to pay for her mother's personal care in a home for the elderly, the Finnish-American Village in Lake Worth. The facility's brass, however, were not getting paid

Turk said her troubles started when she filed a neglect lawsuit against Finnish-American after she found large bedsores on the back of her mother Schafer. Schafer died at the facility in June 2019

Last October, Turk pleaded guilty to social security fraud for cashing $46,000 of her mother Ilse Schafer’s (left and right) social security checks 

Every single day, she told DailyMail.com in an exclusive interview days after she was released, brought its share of eyebrow-raising, eye-rolling, forehead-slapping moments

Every single day, she told DailyMail.com in an exclusive interview days after she was released, brought its share of eyebrow-raising, eye-rolling, forehead-slapping moments

Homemade sex toys were often confiscated during cell searches at Miami's Federal Detention Center (pictured). In one sweep for contraband, Turk reported, she watched guards seize several types of home-made dildos

Homemade sex toys were often confiscated during cell searches at Miami’s Federal Detention Center (pictured). In one sweep for contraband, Turk reported, she watched guards seize several types of home-made dildos

‘Women with particularly ample buttocks sit on the toilet until they create suction inside the porcelain bowl. They go up and down like a pump until the water at the bottom of the toilet is gone.

‘Then, you form a tube by folding a long piece of cardboard that you stick into the hole and, suddenly, you can hear and talk to others throughout the prison.

Sex is plentiful and prevalent among the all-female inmates on her floor, the 5th floor.

While a few female guards work with the female inmates, most guards assigned to women’s housing are men.

‘There is sex between inmates and guards in the back of the kitchen area,’ she said. 

 There is sex between inmates, sometimes four at a time or more in a cell that guards have to break up.

‘There is sex between inmates, sometimes four at a time or more in a cell that guards have to break up.’

Homemade sex toys were often confiscated during cell searches. In one sweep for contraband, Turk reported, she watched guards seize several types of home-made dildos.

‘One popular type is turkey sausage from the commissary wrapped in the fingers of cut-up plastic gloves,’ Turk said. ‘There’s also the kind made from hardened and expanded tampons and stuffing from maxi pads packed into plastic gloves.’

Large sanitary napkins are used for just about everything in the slammer, the 2016 winner of Mrs. Florida said. 

‘You use maxi pads all the time,’ Turk said, adding 12-packs are given free to female inmates. 

‘You can use them to wash dishes in your cell, make shower shoes, clean the floor, block air vents when it’s too cold and make eye-masks at night. Everything.’

Turk (pictured with Trump) is frequent Mar-a-Lago visitor and conservative commentator on cable news,

Turk (pictured with Trump) is frequent Mar-a-Lago visitor and conservative commentator on cable news,

Turk with Roger Stone

Turk with Don Trump Jr

Turk kept meticulous notes of her ordeal and agreed to share them with DailyMail.com so that, she said, the public can find out what really goes on behind the gates of federal prisons and how their tax dollars go to waste. The beauty queen’s guilty plea meant she had to trade in her hair and nail extensions for the serial number 20447104. Pictured: Turk with Roger Stone (left) and Don Trump Jr (right)

She said she also watched guards smuggle items into the prison, mostly pillows, fruits, vegetables, particularly avocados, valued and rare because they are never served in meals, and candies.

At least, she said, that’s the items she saw first-hand.

 Drugs, including the synthetic marijuana K2, and cellphones obviously find their way into the allegedly secure facility.

And all the illegal activity, Turk said, occurs because a high number of surveillance cameras simply aren’t working, or are not monitored.

‘As inmates, we all know which camera does or doesn’t work,’ she said.

So, how did a beauty queen and society stalwart end up trading her hair and nail extensions for the serial number 20447104?

Last October, Turk pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor count of social security fraud for cashing $46,000 of her mother’s social security checks.

Turk claimed she used the money to pay for her mother’s personal care in a home for the elderly, the Finnish-American Village in Lake Worth, Fla.

The facility’s brass, however, were not getting paid.

Turk said her troubles started when she filed a neglect lawsuit against Finnish-American after she found large bedsores on the back of her mother, 83-year-old Ilse Schafer. Schafer died at the facility in June 2019.

Despite the fact she had no criminal record, Turk ended up sentenced to 30 days in prison then five months under house arrest at her beachside condo in Boca Raton. 

She appealed her sentencing, but the appeal couldn’t be heard before March 2, the day she surrendered into the 1,200-inmate prison in downtown Miami.

Turk claimed she used her mother's social security checks to pay for her mother's personal care in a home for the elderly but the facility's brass were not getting paid. Pictured: Childhood photos of Turk and her mother

Turk claimed she used her mother’s social security checks to pay for her mother’s personal care in a home for the elderly but the facility’s brass were not getting paid. Pictured: Childhood photos of Turk and her mother 

Turk said her troubles started when she filed a neglect lawsuit against Finnish-American after she found large bedsores on the back of her mother (pictured). Schafer died at the facility in June 2019

Turk said her troubles started when she filed a neglect lawsuit against Finnish-American after she found large bedsores on the back of her mother (pictured). Schafer died at the facility in June 2019

Turk kept meticulous notes of her ordeal and agreed to share them with DailyMail.com so that, she said, the public can find out what really goes on behind the gates of federal prisons and how their tax dollars go to waste.

Turk told fellow inmates she would share her notes with the media, and that untied many tongues in Unit A-West, a collection of maximum-security cells housing 70 or so women.

But unlike regular inmates who work at dozens of jobs throughout the prison, Turk said detention center officials refused to allow her to be occupied.

‘It was told unequivocally that they didn’t want me to see certain things,’ Turk said.

DailyMail.com emailed requests for comment to the warden and the Bureau of Prisons headquarters in Washington, D.C., but no one responded.

 It was told unequivocally that they didn’t want me to see certain things.

Over the years, the prison hosted the likes of deposed Panama dictator Manuel Noriega, convicted of drug trafficking and yanked out of office by invading U.S. troops in late 1989, as well as rappers Kodak Black, who’s incarcerated on weapons charges, and Fat Joe, who served four months for tax evasion.

Built within earshot of some of the city’s most expensive residential towers, the 20-floor detention center has several levels of security depending on the floor where inmates are held.

The women are kept separate from the male inmates. Nearly all the women are in pre-trial detention and have not been convicted of a crime.

‘When I first arrived,’ Turk tells DailyMail.com, ‘the cold is the first thing I noticed, like walking into a fridge. It felt like 50 degrees. They do not provide any long-sleeved shirts. You are given a tee-shirt and a jumper, and what looks like used underwear and socks.

‘When I was finally taken upstairs, I was given a blanket, two bedding sheets and a small towel. I got toothbrush, toothpaste and a roll of toilet paper.

Turk told fellow inmates she would share her notes with the media, and that untied many tongues in Unit A-West, a collection of maximum-security cells housing 70 or so women. But unlike regular inmates who work at dozens of jobs throughout the prison, Turk said detention center officials refused to allow her to be occupied. 'It was told unequivocally that they didn't want me to see certain things,' Turk said. Pictured: Turk upon her release from prison on March 31

Turk told fellow inmates she would share her notes with the media, and that untied many tongues in Unit A-West, a collection of maximum-security cells housing 70 or so women. But unlike regular inmates who work at dozens of jobs throughout the prison, Turk said detention center officials refused to allow her to be occupied. ‘It was told unequivocally that they didn’t want me to see certain things,’ Turk said. Pictured: Turk upon her release from prison on March 31

One thing surprised Turk, the mother of four children and the wife of a prominent West Palm Beach lawyer: there was much less animosity among inmates than she expected. Turk is now under five months of house arrest in Boca Raton

One thing surprised Turk, the mother of four children and the wife of a prominent West Palm Beach lawyer: there was much less animosity among inmates than she expected. Turk is now under five months of house arrest in Boca Raton 

‘Despite the cold, you are not allowed to use the blanket during the day. Your bed must be made at all times except at night.

‘You can buy a sweatshirt at the commissary to put under your short sleeves. But you can only order stuff every other week. And many women just don’t have any money at all.’

The cleanliness, Turk said, is left to be desired despite the fact the facility was built just 25 years ago.

‘Where you eat, you’ve got to cover your plate because dust is falling from the ceiling,’ she said. ‘There’s also black mold in the showers and almost everywhere else.’

 I was one of the only white girls in there and one in eight held for white-collar crimes while everybody else was facing charges for murder and kidnapping and human trafficking. I was a serious minority. I felt like an alien.

One thing surprised Turk, the mother of four children and the wife of a prominent West Palm Beach lawyer: there was much less animosity among inmates than she expected.

‘I was one of the only white girls in there and one in eight held for white-collar crimes while everybody else was facing charges for murder and kidnapping and human trafficking,’ explains Turk, a public relations consultant who plans to return to her job after the coronavirus crisis. ‘I was a serious minority. I felt like an alien.’

Turk figured out early not to mess with makeshift altars where food was left in offerings by the Cuban followers of the Santeria deity Chango.

‘There were cliques,’ Turk said. ‘There were the Cuban women who practiced Santeria. They left oatmeal cookies and apples and small cups of coffee in some corners of my unit. 

‘Everybody knew not to touch that stuff, or they’d put a curse on you. Those Cubans didn’t get along with the other Cubans who don’t do Santeria and were placing curses on them.’

Many of her fellow inmates, she said, were addicted to drugs.

Turk said a peculiar smell assaulted her nostrils as soon as she entered her unit for the first time.

The smell penetrated even the fabric of her clothes.

Many of her fellow inmates, she said, were addicted to drugs. Turk said a peculiar smell assaulted her nostrils as soon as she entered her unit for the first time. The smell penetrated even the fabric of her clothes. 'I found out this was synthetic marijuana, something called K2. It was everywhere, and I was told that the guards are often the source'

Many of her fellow inmates, she said, were addicted to drugs. Turk said a peculiar smell assaulted her nostrils as soon as she entered her unit for the first time. The smell penetrated even the fabric of her clothes. ‘I found out this was synthetic marijuana, something called K2. It was everywhere, and I was told that the guards are often the source’ 

‘I found out this was synthetic marijuana, something called K2. It was everywhere, and I was told that the guards are often the source.’

In prison, inmates would often do anything for a fix.

‘The druggies even drink cleaning products like Fabuloso,’ Turk said. ‘They snort prescription drugs and even overuse over-the-counter meds like the allergy pills you can buy on commissary. They can crush those and mix the powder with Kool-Aid.’

No lighter for those who like their smoke their drugs? No problem. All it takes is a battery to create a heat source, she said.

‘Inmates told me about people in the outside attaching strips of suboxone (a strong narcotic pain reliever) to the sticky part of envelopes that they would mail in,’ Turk said. 

‘Since the prison used letter openers to open every envelope, the seal would stay intact with the drugs attached.’

Turk said prison officials recently started scanning the mail and delivering electronic copies to inmates, unknowingly breaking the supply chain of suboxone.

One of the strange inmates she ran into, Turk said, was a woman arrested in late August for selling synthetic heroin to a federal informant. She was ordered held on no bond because four people were found dead from drug overdoses at her condo over the past three years.

Although she said she did not witness first-hand guards hooking up with inmates, Turk said 'it's obvious'

Although she said she did not witness first-hand guards hooking up with inmates, Turk said ‘it’s obvious’

‘She made herself look mentally challenged because she’s going for an insanity plea,’ Turk said. She’s completely disheveled and dirty, she spills food and drools at chow time, she talks to herself and wanders around. Yet, if you make eye contact, she smiles and winks.’

On her first night, Turk said she tried to help her bunky as she went through withdrawal.

‘My first cellmate was a heroin and cocaine addict who was detoxing,’ Turk said. ‘No one offered her any medical attention and I was afraid she might die in the cell.

‘She was throwing up, falling, thrashing on the bed. It was horrific. She told me if I called for medical help we would both end up in the SHU (Security Housing Unit where inmates are place in isolation) and get in trouble, so I didn’t.’

The woman Turk replaced in the cell, Turk said, had snorted her medication to commit suicide but failed. 

Medical attention, Turk reports, is abysmal. Many injuries and illnesses, she said, simply go unreported.

‘I watched a fellow inmate fall onto a concrete floor after she took blood-pressure medications administered by the medical staff.

‘She hit her head on the concrete floor and begin to have seizures. The guard stood by and wouldn’t touch her. Other inmates had to help her. When the medics finally showed up, she was taken to the infirmary and given a band-aid for a scrape on her knee.

‘She had a seizure again on the next day.’

One of the hardest things, Turk said, was the quality of the food, including the fact some of items were expired for more than a year.

‘Canned fruits were ages old and some cheeses expired last year,’ she said. ‘There was often mold visible on the breads and muffins. There’s no fresh fruits or vegetables outside of apples and bananas, and the occasional lettuce.’

One kitchen worker told her she was forced to cook chicken marked ‘not for human consumption.’

Turk said the rumors spread in the prison in March that male inmates had taken to defecating on their food trays to protest the expired food.

There was also the complete lack of privacy, Turk said, even in the six-by-ten cells.

Turk said the prison's response to the spread of coronavirus was inadequate and the prison was letting inmates in without making them quarantine

Turk said the prison’s response to the spread of coronavirus was inadequate and the prison was letting inmates in without making them quarantine

‘The toilets in the cells are exposed, and we are prohibited from covering the windows,’ Turk said. ‘Male guard can peek in while you’re peeing.

‘The showers aren’t much better. They’re out in the open, and again male guards seemed to love to watch. Yet, when you go somewhere where there is a male inmate, you are required to turn your back and face the wall.’

Although she said she did not witness first-hand guards hooking up with inmates, Turk said ‘it’s obvious.’

‘Female kitchen workers are supervised by a guard who was known to sneak into the garbage elevator for sex during work shifts,’ Turk said. 

‘I was told this by several inmates. It was common knowledge and accepted. But what you could see is that some of the girls had special relationships with the guards. You can always tell. They are never searched. They’re allowed to stay out during lockdowns. They’re just treated differently.’

Now at home with an ankle bracelet monitoring her whereabouts, Turk can reflect on what she hopes was the only month of jail she'll ever endure

Now at home with an ankle bracelet monitoring her whereabouts, Turk can reflect on what she hopes was the only month of jail she’ll ever endure

There are sexual contacts between male and female inmates, Turk said, but it’s long distance via booklights sold at the commissary.

They call sexting, except that no one is using a cellphone.

‘A lot of them use a booklight to write letters and read in the evening. But the younger girls also use them to light up their genitals into handheld mirrors so that the male inmates across the way can get a thrill.’

The culture nurtured by the guards, Turk said, made them often unnecessarily rough, almost always rude and verbally violent, and sometimes downright scary.

‘We were regularly cursed at and verbally degraded for really no good reasons,’ Turk said.

On March 30, Turk’s notes read, a guard told an inmate working in the kitchen that if his wife wasn’t good to him that night, he would return to work and break both the inmate’s legs. She was visibly upset and asked Turk to tell the media.

On March 25, according to her notes, a male guard showed up in the unit at 10.45pm and shouted for the women to ‘get your punk asses up.’ When one woman complained from inside her cell, he punished everyone by keeping the entire unit’s fluorescent lights on all night.

‘After a while, florescent light in the cell makes it feel like you’re on the surface of the sun,’ Turk said.

Turk wasn’t expecting was the number of cellphones circulating in the units.

Turk said: 'My thoughts are with people who are in there for a minor infraction for months or years. This opened my eyes to what's wrong with justice system. These women are desperate for human interaction. They are desperate to be treated with some level of humanity, and they're not'

Turk said: ‘My thoughts are with people who are in there for a minor infraction for months or years. This opened my eyes to what’s wrong with justice system. These women are desperate for human interaction. They are desperate to be treated with some level of humanity, and they’re not’

‘All I had to do was ask, but I stayed away from cellphones because they are banned,’ Turk said.

Turk said she also witnessed the prison’s response to the spread of coronavirus.

Calling it inadequate, she said, would be doing prison officials a favor.

‘Until March 16, they were still letting inmates in without quarantine. One came in sick wearing a mask, which she took off after about an hour. But they stopped letting new inmates straight into general population on St. Patrick’s Day. 

‘A week later, they started locking us in for up to 20 hours a day and letting half the inmates out together and the other half at another time.

‘That lasted for a couple days, but it wasn’t convenient for them. So, they let us all out at once again.

‘The night before I left, all of the inmates ate dinner together again because the guard forgot to separate us. It was really disorganized.’

Now at home with an ankle bracelet monitoring her whereabouts, Turk can reflect on what she hopes was the only month of jail she’ll ever endure.

‘My thoughts are with people who are in there for a minor infraction for months or years.

‘This opened my eyes to what’s wrong with justice system. These women are desperate for human interaction. They are desperate to be treated with some level of humanity, and they’re not.’ 

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk