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Could Donald Trump really go to jail for violating the gag order?

If Donald Trump If he continues to test the patience of the judge presiding over his hush-money trial, the former president could end up back in his New York City hometown of Queens — specifically the jail on Rikers Island, experts said Monday.

Right Juan Merchanwhich found Monday that Trump had again violated a gag order banning him from discrediting witnesses or the jury, warned that the ex-president could face jail time for further violations “if necessary.”

Merchan did not specify which prison. But when asked what would happen if the judge sent Trump to Rikers, Frank Dwyer, the prison’s top spokesman, said: “The department would find appropriate accommodation.”

Trump has claimed he is the victim of a two-tier justice system that treats him more harshly than other individuals. But the former president’s critics say it’s actually the other way around: that any other suspect making the kind of public statements Trump has made would already have ended up behind bars.

The prospect of Trump being incarcerated during his trial is sure to provoke strong reactions from both his supporters and opponents. Trump has repeatedly tried to raise money for the prospect of a prison sentence, indicating that his campaign finds that conjuring up images of him as a political prisoner draws strong responses from his supporters.

Mike Lawlor, an associate professor of criminal justice at the University of New Haven in Connecticut, said Rikers is the most likely destination if Merchan chooses that route.

What Marchan is trying to do is “end the contempt” and stop Trump from intimidating witnesses and jurors, said Lawlor, a Democrat who is a former member of the Connecticut House of Representatives.

“The whole point is to separate him from his social media,” Lawlor said. “If you put him in jail, that would work.”

Trump would immediately be taken into protective custody for his own protection, Lawlor said, meaning he would not be allowed to mingle with the rest of the prison population.

“He would not have any contact with anyone other than corrections officers and members of his Secret Service,” Lawlor said. “The people at Rikers have extensive experience dealing with high-profile prisoners, including vulnerable seniors like Trump.”

“Obviously he would be the most prominent inmate ever held at Rikers, but he wouldn’t be the only prominent inmate at Rikers,” Lawlor said of the 77-year-old Trump.

One of those inmates is Trump’s former chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg, who was sentenced last month to five months at Rikers after pleading guilty to two counts of perjury during Trump’s civil fraud trial.

In addition, Trump would have to go through the intake process that every inmate goes through, including the shame of having corrections staff “put him on a scale and then report his actual height and weight on the public website,” Lawlor said.

Trump being behind bars would not place an additional burden on his Secret Service associates, Lawlor added.

“The most important job of a Secret Service agent is to protect a former president from harm or kidnapping,” Lawlor said. “If Trump were locked up in a prison, in some ways it would actually make their job easier.”

“The bigger problem” is where the Secret Service would be located, given that they are armed, said Martin F. Horn, a professor emeritus at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice who once served as commissioner of the corrections and probation departments of New York City.

Most likely, Horn said, Trump would be taken to what is called the West Facility, where there would be plenty of room for the ex-president and his security guards and no other prisoners to contend with.

Still, it would be an unprecedented task for the Secret Service to ensure the safety of a former U.S. president behind bars, a spokesperson for the agency told NBC News.

The Secret Service does not have its own ‘prison services’, the spokesperson said.

“It’s obviously uncharted territory,” Horn said. “No state prison system has had to deal with this before, nor has any federal prison.”

There’s another reason Merchan may not be eager to jail Trump, other experts said.

Being sent to an actual prison could be “what Trump wants to show his displeasure to his supporters,” Dave Aronberg, a prosecutor for Palm Beach County, Florida, where Trump lives most of the time, said in an MSNBC interview with José Diaz-Balart.

More likely, Merchan could give Trump a “time out” in a cell behind the New York City courtroom where he is currently on trial.

Former federal prosecutor Michael Zeldin, who took part in the same interview, agreed.

“Maybe an hour in one of those cells may be all Donald Trump needs to understand the seriousness of violations of the silence order imposed by a very serious judge,” Zeldin said.

House arrest is also a possibility, but the judge “has wide latitude over where he can detain Trump,” Horn said.

Lawlor said Merchan is unlikely to lock Trump in a gilded cage like his Trump Tower apartment because he would still have access to electronics and his aides and from there he could defy the judge’s orders.

“So I don’t think he’s going to be locked up in his Manhattan apartment,” Lawlor said.

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