Ponzi schemer Bernie Madoff is living large at Butner Federal Correctional Complex, where he's cozying up with mob bosses and walking "with his head high," the popular girl at the jailbird ball.

The Wall Street Journal's Dionne Searcey presents a lovely portrait of Madoff's life behind bars, where he lives in an unlocked cell and has the adoration of thousands of crooks.

"To every con artist, he is the godfather, the don," says an inmate interviewed earlier this week.

Interesting word choice, seeing how Bernie's rumored best friend in jail is mob boss Carmine "The Snake" Persico, Jr., who is serving time for the murder of Joseph "Crazy Joe" Gallo and for racketeering. Persico was long rumored to run the Colombo family crime ring from his jail cell. What They Have in Common: NYC natives, unquenchable greed, experience running family businesses.

Another good friend is Jonathan Pollard, serving a life sentence for spying for Israel in the '80s. Pollard's wife famously said that her and her husband's "moral obligation was as Jews," not Americans. What They Have in Common: Judaism, secrecy, close relationships with their wives, unleashing anti-semitic tidal waves through various subsections of America.

Bank robber K. C. White sketched, then painted portraits for Bernie. White apparently painted murals around the prison, and says Madoff asked to sit for a portrait, requesting that White depict him non-prison garb. Bernie's probably not friends with White anymore, though, because guy got out of jail and is trying to turn a profit on his early Madoff sketch, which has the Ponzi schemer's signature on it.

As for life in the clink, Bernie apparently finds the food and company pleasant enough. Searcey reports,

There are gangs and a thriving black market for smuggled luxuries, a current inmate says, such as liquor, shrimp, chicken and cigarettes, which can fetch $10 apiece.

No word on whether Bernie has offered to leverage his cellmates' cigarette hoards with the promise of unthinkable profits. Also: Shrimp? What is this, a yacht club? [WSJ]