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James Burke transferred to Pennsylvania prison, attorney says

Ex-Suffolk Police Chief James Burke, shown above after

Ex-Suffolk Police Chief James Burke, shown above after his December 2015 arrest, will serve the rest of his 46-month sentence at a minimum security prison in Allenwood, Pennsylvania. Credit: Steve Pfost

Former Suffolk Police Chief James Burke has been transferred to a low-security federal prison in Pennsylvania to serve out the remainder of his 46-month sentence, according to his attorney and federal Bureau of Prisons records.

Burke, convicted in February of beating a man who stole a duffel bag from his department SUV and then masterminding a cover-up of the assault, had requested transfer to the federal prison at Otisville in upstate Orange County so he could be closer to his cancer-stricken mother in St. James.

Otisville, 125 miles from St. James, is the closest federal prison to the Suffolk hamlet where Burke, 52, had lived with his mother, Frances. The Pennsylvania prison in Allenwood, about halfway between Scranton and State College, is 225 miles from Burke’s Long Island home.

“It’s a reasonable distance,” Burke’s attorney, John Meringolo, of Manhattan, said Tuesday in reference to Allenwood.

Meringolo said he has not talked with Burke since the former police chief was transferred Dec. 28 from the federal detention center in Brooklyn.

Burke had been held in Brooklyn since his December 2015 arrest. U.S. District Judge Leonard Wexler ordered him held there because his possible influence on the Suffolk police department at the time made him a danger to the community.

The federal prison bureau does not announce the transfer of prisoners until after they are moved for security reasons. Officials at Allenwood did not return requests Tuesday for comment on Burke’s transfer.

Meringolo had asked for Burke to be assigned to Otisville, saying “it would avoid unnecessary family hardship.” Wexler also recommended Otisville, but the judge noted that his recommendation was advisory and the Bureau of Prisons makes the final determination of where a prisoner is housed.

Allenwood, near Williamsport, site of the Little League World Series, is actually three separate federal detention centers: maximum and medium security prisons as well as a minimum-security prison, where Burke was sent.

Sources said Burke has not requested any special housing or security arrangements to keep him from potential harm or harassment by other inmates because of his former status as a high-ranking police officer. In the Brooklyn detention center, he lived in a unit that did not house violent offenders such as street gang members.

Minimum-security federal prisons, however, do not usually house inmates with a history of violence.

According to the handbook issued to inmates at Allenwood, they are required to wear khaki shirts and pants, are to be in their sleeping areas for a count five times a day, and are expected to make their beds and ensure the cleanliness of their area each day.

Inmates are expected to have a regular job, often in a plant that manufactures furniture for government offices. Pay ranges from 23 cents to $1.35 an hour. Also, inmates are allowed 300 minutes a month of telephone calls, and visits by immediate family members on Friday, Saturday, Sunday and federal holidays.

Though Burke was sentenced to 46 months, with credit for time already served in Brooklyn and time for good behavior, he could be released in 28 months.

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