Nate Harper reports to federal prison in Illinois

by: Brian Bowling, TribLIVE Updated:


PERKIN, Ill. - Former Pittsburgh police Chief Nate Harper reported to an Illinois federal prison just before noon Tuesday to start serving his 18-month sentence on corruption charges, said Chris Burke, a spokesman for the Bureau of Prisons.

(This article was written by Brian Bowling, a staff writer for Channel 11’s news exchange partners at TribLIVE.)

Harper is being housed at the minimum security camp adjacent to the medium security prison in Pekin, Ill.

Harper, 61, of Stanton Heights, pleaded guilty to conspiring to divert about $32,000 of public money into his own pockets and to four counts of failing to file federal tax returns.

The camps are the bureau's least secure facilities and often don't even have a fence around them, Burke said.

“If they do it's more to mark a boundary than it is to provide security,” he said. “It's more to keep people out.”

The bureau's website says the Pekin camp doesn't have a perimeter fence.

The camps have a lower staff-to-inmate ratio and the inmates have more freedom to move around, he said. They typically live in barracks-style rooms that house 100 or more men, with four men sharing a bay that is surrounded by 6-foot high privacy walls similar to office cubicles.

The bay includes two sets of bunk beds, chairs and lockers for personal effects, Burke said.

Inmates at the camp have the same programs as inmates in more secure facilities, “but you're going to see fewer controls on their movement (such as metal detectors),” Burke said.

He declined to discuss how the bureau classified Harper's security risk or why it chose the prison in Illinois, but said it generally considers threats to the inmate's safety, as well as what threat he poses to other inmates and the likelihood he'll attempt escape.

The bureau hasn't calculated Harper's release date yet, but it will include the assumption that he'll get 54 days off his sentence for good behavior, prorated for every year, which would come out to about 81 days.

“It's his to lose,” Burke said.

According to the bureau's website, the camp holds 328 people while the medium security prison holds 1,104 people.

Among the inmates currently serving sentences at the prison are Chicago businessman Tony Rezko, a top fundraiser for former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich. Rezko is doing a 10-year stretch for fraud and related charges from a state contract kickback scheme.

Another Pekin inmate is former Luzerne County Mark Ciavarella, who is doing 28 years for his “cash-for-kids” kickback scheme that had him handing down heavy sentences to juveniles who were then sent to a for-profit juvenile detention facility.