(NewsNation) — Jailed reality TV star Todd Chrisley is speaking out publicly for the first time from behind bars, telling NewsNation he believes he’s being targeted by prison staff and that he and other inmates are living in filthy conditions.
Chrisley, who gained fame on the show “Chrisley Knows Best” that followed his tight-knit, boisterous family, is serving a 12-year prison sentence on charges including bank fraud and tax evasion in a federal prison camp in Pensacola, Florida.
NewsNation was denied access to speak with Chrisley inside the prison over “security concerns” but reached him by phone through his lawyer.
In an interview aired Friday on “CUOMO,” Chrisley said that he’s heard recorded conversations of staff saying he needs to be “humbled.”
“(They said), ‘What we need to do is we need to put him in diesel therapy and put him in shackles and let him ride around the country for a time and then bring him back and that will humble him,'” Chrisley said. “‘He thinks he’s in one of his mansions that he’s used to living in, but this is the (expletive) BOP (Bureau of Prisons).'”
Chrisley also told NewsNation that a photograph was taken of him while he was sleeping and sent to his daughter asking for $2,600 to keep him protected in prison.
In a trial last year, federal prosecutors said Todd and his wife Julie engaged in an extensive bank fraud scheme and then hid their wealth from tax authorities while flaunting their lavish lifestyle.
They were convicted in June 2022 on charges of bank fraud, tax evasion and conspiring to defraud the IRS. Julie Chrisley was also convicted of wire fraud and obstruction of justice.
Todd was sentenced to 12 years, and Julie was sentenced to seven. She’s serving her time at the Federal Medical Center in Lexington, Kentucky.
Inside the Pensacola prison, Todd Chrisley says the food is “disgustingly filthy,” and he estimates inmates take in maybe 1,000 calories per day if that.
“They are literally starving these men to death here,” he said.
He went on to claim that there are rats, squirrels and cats — some dead — found near food storage areas. He buys tuna and peanut butter from the commissary to eat.
Prison officials told NewsNation the food is nutritious and the facilities are in livable conditions.
While Todd and Julie are in jail, their 26-year-old daughter Savannah has been left to care for her 17-year-old brother and 11-year-old niece.
She told NewsNation she’s essentially a “single parent now.”
“I’m trying to get two kids through school and health care and all these different things, so I know what it’s like to have to sit there and think, ‘Oh, shoot, how do I need to budget this month, how do I need to get through this month?'” she said. “My life has completely changed.”
The Chrisleys’ lawyer, Jay Surgent, has appealed their conviction and was recently granted a request for oral arguments.
“Our criminal justice system, I believe, has let them down,” Surgent told NewsNation. “I think we’re going to be able to argue that effectively and correct an injustice that shouldn’t have existed to begin with.”
At the time he joined the case, Surgent said there were “serious and critical errors” in the case, including in-court testimony from a government witness and IRS agent. The defense team is also arguing on appeal that prosecutors received information during the trial that the couple did not owe taxes the government was alleging.
As his lawyers and family fight for him on the outside, Chrisley said he wants to do everything he can to fight for himself on the inside, even if it means putting a bigger crosshair on his back.
“I know that God has a greater purpose. I know he’s got a greater plan, and I’m not going to let the federal government break my faith,” Chrisley said. “The prosecutor said that we were the southern version of the Trumps. I’m not going to have someone like him break my family. That’s what he wanted to do, but he’s not been able to do that.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.