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Brown to be released from prison today

OAKDALE Sporting a duck-tail hairdo and an upbeat attitude, Jim Brown talked a mile a minute as he met with visitors at the prison camp in Oakdale.

Brown, who is to be released today from the federal prison camp, spoke positively about his future while passionately protesting his innocence.

Interviewed by The Town Talk on Wednesday, the former state insurance commissioner recounted his prison achievements while throwing around literary quotes.

In a rapid-fire conversation, the 62-year-old Brown also affirmed his love for Krispy Kreme donuts and Charles Dickens, and talked about how much he's missed the Prairie Home Companion radio show.

Most of all, Brown said, he has big plans.

"From a financial point of view," he said, "I'll make a lot more money than I ever did in public life" after he is released from prison.

"You could argue that what happened, in the long run, was the best thing for enhancing my quality of life."

His resignation as insurance commissioner became official Tuesday. He resigned after the U.S. Supreme Court refused to review his conviction, but Brown said his life is far from ruined.

He has already written a book about his trial and said the book is being sought by more than one publisher. Brown would not reveal the publishers.

Brown, a Shreveport native whose late father was a Northwest Louisiana business and civic leader, was indicted on 43 counts of fraud, conspiracy and witness tampering. He was acquitted of those charges in 2000, but he was convicted of lying to an FBI agent concerning the liquidation of a failed insurance company.

A book about life in prison is in the works, he said, and he hopes to include it in a "multiple book deal." Brown said he may write a third book about the nation's need, as well as his recipe, for prison reform.

Congress is not funding education and training programs, he said, thus, inmates are just being warehoused.

Besides the books, Brown said he has been invited to speak all over the country and has a possible contract with a speakers' bureau.

India and other countries are now attempting to set up medical insurance companies, and Brown said insurance consultants have asked him to help plan insurance regulatory systems.

Brown, formerly of Ferriday, was originally elected insurance commissioner in 1991 and was re-elected in 1995 and 1999.

Prison life hasn't been that bad, said Brown, a former state representative, state senator and secretary of state.

For one thing, after working out two hours a day, he is in the best shape of his life, he said. Brown said he weighs 173, his college weight, and has a body fat count of 9.

Always a voracious reader, Brown has read 100 books while jailed, has written an Internet column and has gotten up to 200 supportive letters a week. His free time has been packed with visitors, from wife Gladys and some of his four grown children to his numerous friends.

Prison officials assigned Brown to the prison kitchen as a combination cook/cleanup man. He bragged the other inmates love his meat loaf, to which he adds garlic, cheese, mustard and catsup.

Although some prisons are considered dangerous for the inmates, Brown said he never felt fear in the federal satellite prison camp.

Most of the prison camp's inmates are jailed for non-violent drug offenses, he said, and "all these fellows want to do is go home." Inmates who are involved in violent confrontations or crimes don't go home on time.

"They are people like anyone else," Brown said. "They show emotion.

"They talk to their kids on the phone and shed a tear when they walk back to their bed with their heads down."

Some of those same inmates call the 6-foot-3 Brown "Big Jim."

But when Brown talks about the charges leveled against him and about his trial, he becomes grim and intense. What happened to him was an "injustice" and was "unfair." he said.

"I haven't changed. I love my country, but I fear my government," Brown said, accusing the FBI of lying about what he said in an interview with one of its agents.

When the federal government went to war with former Gov. Edwin Edwards, Brown said, he was caught in the crossfire.

Brown said he has never done a corrupt thing, doesn't know anything about corruption and has never taken a dishonest dime.

He and Edwards who were tried together were the only elected officials in U.S. history who had an anonymous jury, Brown said.

He and Edwards were also the only elected officials placed under a gag order, he said. He also noted that he was one of the few elected officials who have ever been indicted close to an election.

When sentenced, Brown was ordered to pay a $50,000 fine. Brown chuckles that he paid the fine with his American Express card.

That forced the U.S. government to pay American Express a fee.

As insurance commissioner, Brown argues, he must have "done something right.

"The rates the last few years were going down, and now they are going back up," he said.

In the end, Brown said, he guesses the good things that happened in his public life outweighed the bad things.

Then he quoted Garth Brooks: "I could have missed the pain, but I'd have missed the dance."

Source: www.shreveporttimes.com

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