Solitary confinement in jail left a mark on former McKinsey MD Rajat Gupta

Updated: Apr 12, 2019, 12:30 IST | Hemal Ashar |

Disgraced former McKinsey man stuns elite audience with account of his time in US prison

Rajat Gupta speaks out. Pic/Literature Live!
Rajat Gupta speaks out. Pic/Literature Live!

At an event in the city, Indian-American businessman Rajat Gupta called the American prisons 'draconian', as he spoke of being stripped and humiliated during his two years in jail after being convicted for insider trading in the US in 2012. The former managing director of McKinsey & Co is in India to promote his book Mind Without Fear.

Gupta spoke at the Literature Live! event at the Indian Merchants Chamber (IMC) in Churchgate late Wednesday evening, providing the audience, comprising the city's crème de la crème, details of his prison days.

Rashmi Jolly, Hon Consul General of the Czech Republic, hosting the Rajat Gupta event said that the businessman had in his book admitted to having "made mistakes", which is why he deserved another chance.

Rajat Gupta (right) in conversation with G Ethiraj. Pic/Literature Live!
Rajat Gupta (right) in conversation with G Ethiraj. Pic/Literature Live!

In conversation with financial journalist G Ethiraj in a one-hour session, the IIT Delhi alumnus spoke of his early days in the business, his career, the insider trading scandal and his book. "Concentrate on becoming a better professional. Do not simply think about your career graph. You must stress on becoming better at what you do," he urged the audience.

Also Read: Former Goldman Sachs director Rajat Gupta's appeal on insider trading conviction rejected

It was, however, his account of his days in prison that was the most riveting. The Kolkata-born and US-based, suave and well-spoken high achiever "had to endure the humiliation of stripping in front of the guards to get into the orange prison uniform." Gupta added, "I was put into solitary confinement for seven weeks. The USA has the largest number of incarcerated people in the world. It is a draconian system. Many of the guards behaved arbitrarily, killing your spirit. I obeyed all the rules but I was not going to put my head down and say that I am a bad person, because I was not."

Solitary confinement

"Solitary confinement was an extraordinary time and it left an indelible mark on me. I was put into a concrete solitary confinement cell. There was steel everywhere, A mattress which used to be thick but was worn thin was put on a steel bed. You were basically sleeping on steel. There was a steel toilet, a steel washbasin. A narrow slit served as a window, it let in sliver of light but you could not tell if it was day or night. A narrow slit was opened and a food tray was shoved through that. You had to be fast enough to catch the tray, otherwise, the food may fall to the floor," Gupta narrated his ordeal, adding, "We were taken out of our cells for a while every day for fresh air. Put in a cage-like structure we were allowed to walk back and forth, for some fresh air within this cage, a bit like the zoo cages with steel bars."

Also Read: US Supreme Court denies Rajat Gupta's last bid to avoid jail

Adding some black humour to his narration, the businessman said, "A guard once told me, 'you seem strange, you never ask for anything.' I told him, solitary confinement is like a prison with room service! The next week I was out; the guard must have thought I was enjoying solitary confinement a bit too much."

Solitary confinement, he said, was the noisiest place in prison. "Prisoners banging on their cell doors or shouting through the night. I realized that they were going crazy. The entire prison system is designed to not give you any dignity," said Gupta, concluding with, "I have never been an insider trader, never was, never am and never will be."

Also Read: Indian-American businessman Rajat Gupta: I see it as the closing of a chapter in my life

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