By Zachary Blackwell
Elm Staff Writer
Martin Shkreli, also known as the “Pharma Bro,” has been continuing to manage his pharmaceutical company Phoenixus AG behind bars at Federal Correctional Institution Fort Dix, a low-security prison in New Jersey, using a contraband cell phone, according to CBS News.
Despite the level of security that prisons in the United States can offer, officers can have a difficult time keeping contraband from slipping into the hands of prisoners. A myriad of illegal items, such as weapons, drugs, or other volatile materials are often thought to be the definitive examples of contraband because of how disruptive they can be. Contraband also includes unauthorized electronics, such as cell phones, that can be slipped behind bars if prisoners are careful enough. Cell phones can be used to continue the work of a criminal that has lots of connections (for example, if they are serving a role in a company). This is allegedly how Martin Shkreli continued to run his business behind bars.
The U.S. Bureau of Prisons has opened an investigation to determine whether he was at fualt while serving a seven-year prison sentence for defrauding investors in two failed hedge funds. The Bureau considers the use of a contraband cell phone a severe offense that could result in further punishment, including additional criminal charges. He is currently 17 months into his original sentence.
Phoenixus AG, formerly known as Turing Pharmaceuticals, is infamously known for raising prices of the durg Daraprim, which is used to treat victims of AIDS, according to CNN. In September 2015, when Shkreli was the CEO the price of Daraprim was raised from $13.50 to $750 a pill, which sparked outrage among the public. Shkreli became the face of rising drug prices observed in pharmaceutical companies nationwide. Later, in December 2015, Shkreli was indicted on security fraud charges unrelated to the price increase.
Despite Shkreli’s prior problems with the law, he has still been able to hold significant influence over Phoenixus AG, according to NBC News. He has taken actions to manage his company, such as firing the company’s chief executive in a call that was made from prison.
Shkreli has also been able to post to social media sites like Twitter and his personal blog. Most importantly, Shkreli has used prison computers and his phone to do pharmaceutical research, preparing for his eventual release, when he will be able to run his business again.
Before he is charged with any other offense, though, Shkreli was reportedly punished by being placed in solitary confinement, although any details about this confinement have been scarce.
Solitary confinement is a harsh way to ensure that individuals can’t continue to ignore the rules in place, and has come under scrutiny for its damaging psychological impact.
In Shkreli’s case, however, it is a necessary punishment. He might have been less comfortable in prison from the beginning of his sentence, but the reality was that he was able to maintain control over assets despite being punished for fraud.
There have been other offenses that have required the use of solitary confinement for punishment, but before, it didn’t seem as if Shkreli’s punishment was enough.
Shkreli’s business venture is why he is in prison, as well as why he is hated by many medical patients. The vitriol he has received is not why he should be in solitary confinement, though. Instead, he should not be able to operate his business. The company would be hurt if Shkreli isn’t in control of the flow of money within his business, so it’s only by cutting his access to his business that he can truly feel punished.