LISTEN: Steve Stenger sought prison advice from former inmate

Former Missouri State Senator Jeff Smith, who went to federal prison, says Stenger reached out to him recently for advice on what's coming

Kevin Killeen
August 09, 2019 - 5:00 am
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ST. LOUIS--(KMOX)--Two local politicians who went to prison have some advice for former St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger. After pleading guilty to a bribery scheme involving political donors, U.S. Attorney's office has asked the judge to lock up Stenger in federal prison for about three-to-four-years and he will be sentenced at 1:30 p.m., Friday.

Related: Stenger gets max sentence, plus fine; Will be in prison by Sept 21

Former Missouri State Senator Jeff Smith went to federal prison for a year in 2009 for a campaign crime, and wrote a book about it, "Mr. Smith Goes to Prison."

Related: Steve Stenger will not receive a pension from St. Louis County

"You don't want to get targeted because people think you're soft," Smith said, "So, you should go in, not ask too many questions, and keep your head down--don't do anything stupid or anything that would antagonize people."

Smith was asked how to avoid sexual assault in prison.

"Well, you keep your mouth shut, you don't do anything stupid, you don't take showers at unusual times when there's no one else in the building," Smith said. "Don't stare at other people, don't look into someone else's cell, don't touch their tray when they're eating or God forbid, like touch a piece of food on their plate."

Former Missouri State Representative T.D. El Amin also went to federal prison for a little more than a year on a bribery charge.

He says Stenger is going to have to adjust his thinking when he walks into prison.

"When you go there, you have to accept that as your reality," El Amin said, "and ask yourself what are you going to do with that time. You can pout around and talk about how helpless you are, or you can accept the fact that you're here."

Asked about how to avoid sexual assault,  El Amin says it's more a problem in maximum security federal prisons, than the type of facility where he was sent, the type of place where Stenger might go.

"People sense and feel, you know, so it's what vibe you're giving off," El Amin said, "Reality is if you stick to yourself and meet like-minded people, you stay above the fray."

Both men say prison can be a time for personal growth if Stenger keeps busy, writes family and friends, and prepares for the next chapter of his life, after prison.

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