What a Donald Trump Prison Sentence Would Look Like

On Monday, Judge Juan Merchan, who is presiding over Donald Trump’s hush money trial, fined the former president an additional $1,000 after concluding he had violated a gag order for the tenth time.

Merchan warned that if the violations continue “this court will have to consider a jail sentence,” though he also said incarceration “would be disruptive to the proceedings.” The gag order prohibits Trump from attacking any of the witnesses or jurors involved in the case.

Speaking to Newsweek, Neama Rahmani, a former federal prosecutor and president of West Coast Trial Lawyers, said that if Trump continues breaking the gag order and is ordered to jail, he would “most likely” be sent to Rikers Island prison and kept separate from the general prison population.

However, the legal insider said it is more likely Merchan would place him under house arrest in one of his properties, such as Trump Tower.

What Trump Prison Sentence Would Look Like
A former federal prosecutor has said that if Donald Trump continues breaking his gag order and is ordered to jail, he would most likely be sent to Rikers Island prison in New York.

Photo-illustration by Newsweek/Getty, SAUL LOEB, Andrew Lichtenstein/Corbi

Trump is on trial in Manhattan for 34 counts of falsifying business records which prosecutors claim he did to conceal the payment of hush money to Stormy Daniels, a former adult film actress, ahead of the 2016 presidential election. Trump had pleaded not guilty to all charges and denies Daniels’s claim that they had a sexual relationship in 2006.

“In the very unlikely event that Trump is jailed, most likely at Rikers Island, for violating the gag order, Trump would be completely separated from the general population and would still have Secret Service protection while in custody. His safety would be of paramount concern, so there would be no direct interaction with other prisoners,” Rahmani said.

“Jailing a former president is unprecedented, and logistically, it would be a nightmare. It’s far more likely Judge Merchan orders home confinement in Trump Tower or elsewhere for continued violations of the gag order.”

Former president Donald Trump
Former President Donald Trump at Manhattan Criminal Court in New York City on May 9. Trump is likely to be isolated from the general prison population if Judge Merchan sends him to jail for gag…

Steven Hirsch-Pool/GETTY

Newsweek reached out to Donald Trump’s attorney and representatives of his 2024 presidential election campaign for comment by email.

In an article for The New York Times, author Jonathan Alter said Merchan could instead instruct Trump to undertake community service if he keeps breaking the gag order, which he said had happened to defendants in other cases.

Alter wrote: “If Trump again attacks witnesses or the jury, Merchan should assign him to pick up trash in parks on two or three Wednesdays when court is not in session. (City judges have done this before to contempt offenders.) Parks could be more easily secured by the Secret Service than roads, and that would spare the agents uncomfortable nights outside his cell.”

Speaking to Newsweek in December 2023, Robert Rogers, an associate professor of criminal justice at Middle Tennessee State University who previously worked for the Federal Bureau of Prisons, said if imprisoned over any of his four criminal indictments Trump would likely be kept away from the general prison population.

“I would anticipate that he would not have any contact with inmates in the general population,” he said. “If he had any contact at all with other prisoners, it would probably be in a separate, secured unit with other ‘dirty’ cops, prosecutors and judges. In other words, he would be in a special unit with others whom the run-of-the-mill inmates would like to harm for putting them there in prison in the first place.

Referring to Trump, Rogers added: “He would undoubtedly have a number of adoring fans. However, there would also be inmates who would try to kill him, in spite of Secret Service protection, just to make a name for themselves so that they would go down in history not as common criminals and losers but as someone who had killed an American president.”