Former media baron Conrad Black arrived at a Florida prison Monday to begin serving a 6½-year sentence for fraud and obstruction of justice.

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Conrad Black holds hands with his wife, Barbara Amiel Black, seen through the window of an SUV as they leave their mansion in Palm Beach, Fla., on Monday morning. Conrad Black was headed for the prison where he will serve a sentence for fraud and obstruction of justice. ((Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press))

Black left his mansion in Palm Beach, Fla., in a sport utility vehicle at about 9 a.m. ET, accompanied by his wife, Barbara Amiel Black, in the back seat. An unidentified man was driving.

Three hours later, the SUV arrived at the gates of the low-security facility at the Coleman Federal Correction Complex in central Florida, the CBC's Rosemary Barton reported from the scene.

The SUV — minus Black — left the facility less than half an hour later.

Black will become inmate No. 18330-424, and be fingerprinted, searched and have a DNA sample taken. He will also be photographed, and will be given a bed assignment and orientation schedule.

"It's not the least bit stigmatizing," Black said in a phone interview with the National Post on Sunday night.

"This is not a scary place. There's no violence there. I expect it to be somewhat boring."

He added: "It's a hell of a way to lose weight, but I'll lose weight."

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A vehicle leaves Coleman Federal Correction Complex in central Florida on Monday, after dropping off Conrad Black. ((John Raoux/Associated Press))

At Coleman, there are two fences and two layers of barbed wire surrounding the complex.

Montreal-born Black, 63, will be housed in a dorm-like setting and share a cubicle with another man. The constricted living space with two bunks per room is separated from adjacent cubicles by cinder-block walls.

He will also be given a job, which will earn him anywhere from 12 to 40 cents an hour.

"I'd rather do something bookish than physical labour," Black told the Post. "I wouldn't be the best guy they could have out mowing the lawn, but I could do not badly teaching French or something like that."

Convicted nearly 8 months ago

Black was convicted July 13 of obstructing justice and defrauding shareholders of his former newspaper company, Hollinger International Inc.

Friends have been quoted as saying Black is "serene" ahead of his jail time, and is ready for anything he may face in prison, where, he has indicated, he will teach, write and pray.

"I saw him two weeks ago and he was pleasant, full of life and joking," said lifelong friend Brian Stewart.

"I think he feels ready for anything that lies ahead. He's not going to let it get him down."

Black's lawyer, Andrew Frey, said he was "surprised and disappointed" last Thursday when a Chicago court ruled that Black could not delay the prison term during his appeal.

'Grotesque charade': Black

In an e-mail with the Business News Network on Saturday, Black held out hope that his time in prison will be short.

"The judges' comments on the main remaining fraud counts show that the government's case is still disintegrating," Black said.

"This process will continue and justice will prevail, one way or another. I will speak to you at any length you want, when this grotesque charade is over."

Although the court denied his request for bail pending appeal, it noted that "substantial questions" were raised about two of the fraud counts.

The court did also say, however, that issues related to another fraud count and Black's obstruction of justice conviction were "less clear."

Appeal planned

His lawyers are expected to file their appeal on Thursday, and the case should be heard by June. That means Black will have to spend at least three months in prison, even if any of his convictions are overturned.

If the appeal fails, he will have to complete at least 85 per cent of his sentence before being eligible for parole.

"This is the last phase," Black told the Post.

"When I come out of this place, this whole God damned nightmare is over. I'm not that old. I'm not poor and I'm still serviceable, so it's not the end of the world."

With files from the Canadian Press