BOSTON — For years, James "Whitey" Bulger was kept in segregation in the federal prison system, away from potential rivals yet close to medical treatment.
Most recently, Bulger was incarcerated at U.S. Penitentiary Coleman II, a high-security federal prison for male inmates in Florida.
But everything changed in October, when Bulger was suddenly shipped out of Coleman and ultimately sent to USP Hazeleton in West Virginia, where he was killed.
What made Bulger’s move possible was a lowering of his medical status from Level 3, to Level 2, a move suggesting that Bulger’s health was improving.
Jose Rojas represents workers at Coleman. He last saw a wheelchair-bound Bulger in December.
"He was an old man in a wheelchair. He seemed fine to me. I didn’t see him on his death bed. He still had some spunk," Rojas said.
Rojas said as a high-profile inmate, Bulger had people bringing him breakfast, lunch and dinner.
"It was, 'Get me this, get me that.' He would tell them, ‘Do it now’ and they would do it now," Rojas said.
At Coleman, Bulger spent months in solitary confinement for allegedly making a threat against a prison health care worker.
According to a source, Bulger requested to be placed into Coleman’s general population, where Bulger had help from other inmates.
And, Bulger "got along fine with the other inmates," Rojas said.
"There was never an issue with him and other inmates," he said.
Rojas said moving Bulger into the West Virginia facility was "a big deal, because when you downgrade an inmate, you’re saying he’s healthy. He has no medical restrictions pretty much."
"When you lower his care level, it makes it a lot easier to move him anywhere around the country," Rojas said.
But Bulger’s request for general population at Coleman was never granted.
It may have traveled with him to Hazelton. There, Bulger was not only put in general population, but into an open cell, within reach of any inmate, including the two prisoners with New England mob ties who are now suspected of killing him.
Cox Media Group