The Real Housewives of New Jersey star is doing well in prison and says the staff and inmates have been "respectful and nice," her lawyer tells PEOPLE
Teresa Giudice is settling into her new digs just fine.
The Real Housewives of New Jersey star, 42, emailed her lawyer, James J. Leonard, Jr., several times this week to let him know she is adjusting to prison – and so far, it’s been okay.
“She’s doing great,” Leonard, tells PEOPLE. “I got a series of emails from her and she is doing phenomenally. It seems like she is getting acclimated very well. She tells me that everybody is nice and everybody is treating her respectfully. She said both the staff and the inmates are being nice to her and that she is getting along fine.”
On Jan. 5, Teresa surrendered to authorities at the Federal Correctional Institution in Danbury, Connecticut, where she will be serving a 15-month sentence for bankruptcy fraud and conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud.
Her husband, Joe Giudice, 44, is planning to visit her this weekend, says Leonard. “I can only assume he is bringing the kids,” he says.
While Teresa is in prison, Joe is caring for their four daughters, Gia, 13, Gabriela, 10, Milania, 8, and Audriana, 5. When she is finished serving her time, he will serve a 41-month sentence for similar charges.
“She is looking forward to visits from her children,” says Leonard. “I think she wants to see them whenever she can.”
Giudice was able to let Leonard know she is doing well using the TRULINCS messaging system. “It’s not your typical email system,” says Leonard. “It’s an email system for federal prisoners. It’s a privilege, like using the telephone, etc.”
Users can sign on and send and receive emails but can’t surf the Internet. “It’s more of a communication mechanism,” he says.
Prisoners cannot send pictures or attachments. Messages are limited to 13,000 characters. Reading or writing an email on a TRULINCS computer costs 5 cents a minute.
He also points out that Teresa is not getting out of prison early. The “Inmate Locator” on the Bureau of Prisons’ website says that the reality star’s release date is Feb. 5, 2016 – two months earlier than the 15-month sentence a federal judge handed her in October.
“Under federal law, every federal prisoner serves 85 percent of their sentence, unless they do something really egregious,” he says. “So her 13-month release date – Feb. 5 – is actually 85 percent of her sentence.”
She may be out of prison as early as Christmas, he says, but not out of the system altogether. “Prisoners can also take six months or 10 percent off that 85 percent,” he says. “So for her, 10 percent of 15 months is one and a half months, which puts that date in late December – just before Christmas.”
During that last stretch, from late December until Feb. 6, she is still considered a prisoner, however, but would serve that time at a halfway house or under house arrest.
“Our goal is that Teresa will serve out the end of her sentence in home confinement in lieu of going to a halfway house. That is something that we are going to work towards.”
During home confinement, she would not be allowed to leave her house without the permission of her probation officer. “When you are in a halfway house, you are able to leave and go to work, etc.,” he says. “So they will allow her to do certain things with their permission.”
She may even be able to leave the house to work on RHONJ. “If she were to return to the show, and that was her primary source of employment, then that would be a discussion we would have with probation,” he says.
Giudice already has a probation officer assigned to her, he says. “At the conclusion of the custodial sentence, which appears to be Feb. 5, she has two years of supervised release. That probation officer is involved with you for the next two years. There are certain rules and parameters so the probation officer makes sure you are operating within the parameters of your supervised release.”