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Ex-mayor on prison life: Spin class, teaching and law books

The former mayor of a Pennsylvania city who is serving a 15-year prison sentence for public corruption told a newspaper his life behind bars is “kind of like being mayor but for a lot less money.”

Former Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski has spent more than a year at a low-security prison camp in Danbury, Connecticut, after his sentencing in October 2018. Pawlowski had just started his fourth term when he was convicted of rigging municipal contracts in a scheme to raise money for his political campaigns for higher office.

Since being locked up, Pawlowski, 54, said he has kept a busy schedule that includes drumming in several bands, teaching a class on government, learning foreign languages and attending spin and yoga classes.

“The one good thing about prison is that it has gotten me in shape,” Pawlowski, responding to an interview request from The (Allentown) Morning Call, wrote in a letter to the paper. He said he’s dropped 30 pounds.

The former mayor said he spends afternoons and weekends in the prison’s law library, where he works on an appeal. He said he’s also been helping inmates with immigration paperwork and presidential pardon requests.

“I’m thinking of just skipping law school and just taking the bar exam when I get out,” he joked, saying he’s become “quite the legal scholar.”

Pawlowski also wrote that he serves as head elder for the prison church, leads a Bible study and oversees a crew of 15 men who clean his unit.

“It’s kind of like being mayor but for a lot less money,” Pawlowski wrote. “I get all the complaints, work the bureaucracy to get things done and attempt to motivate folks to keep our living environment habitable.”

Pawlowski, who is due to get out of prison in 2031, said he has started writing a book about the experience.

A jury found that Pawlowski coerced Allentown city vendors to contribute to his failed campaigns for governor and U.S. Senate, orchestrating a scheme to rig contracts for legal, engineering, technology and construction work. Pawlowski was convicted of dozens of federal charges, including conspiracy, bribery, fraud, attempted extortion and lying to the FBI.

He has denied wrongdoing.

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Dave Rinelli

Local Headlines