Rural, “outdoorsey” lifestyles of members of the “Amish Mafia” ill-prepared them for life in the Big House.
Sixteen Amish men and women who have lived rural, self-sufficient lives surrounded by extended family and with little outside contact are facing regimented routines in a federal prison system where almost half of inmates are behind bars for drug offenses and modern conveniences such as television will be a constant temptation.
Prison rules will allow the 10 men convicted in beard- and hair-cutting attacks on fellow Amish in eastern Ohio to keep their religiously important beards, but they must wear standard prison uniforms instead of the dark outfits they favor. Jumper dresses will be an option for the six Amish women, who will be barred from wearing their typical long, dark dresses and bonnets.
It’s unclear where the Amish will serve their sentences, but some of the nearest options include men’s prisons in Elkton, a 90-minute drive southeast of Cleveland, and in Loretto, Pa., and women’s prisons in Lexington, Ky., and Alderson, W.Va. The dates they have to report could come any day.
Visits from family members might be difficult since they don’t drive modern vehicles. During the trial, relatives hired van drivers to take them more than 100 miles to the trial in Cleveland, where they often filled most courtroom seats.
“Amish people grow up with very strong communal connections and large extended families and participating in community activities, so being suddenly severed from that and isolated would certainly be a major change,” said Donald Kraybill, a longtime Amish researcher and professor at Elizabethtown College in the heart of Pennsylvania’s Amish country.