Out For Theranos’s Blood: Elizabeth Holmes Reports to Prison


Marni Schwarz, Staff Writer

Have you heard of the mini-series entitled “The Dropout?” Yes, the one about the woman who deceived investors, physicians, journalists, and patients into believing that her multi-billion dollar company would transform blood tests. Does that not sound fabricated? Well… the unsettling reality is that it is not. A real woman, named Elizabeth Holmes, executed this masterfully crafted scheme of deception and fraud at only 19 years old.

In 2003, after dropping out of Stanford University, Holmes established Theranos, a company that promised its revolutionary blood tests could promptly identify diseases like cancer and diabetes with only a drop of blood. The idea behind the company was brilliant— Theranos’ tests would not only reduce the need for large needles, but they would also make detecting conditions easier and faster. If the scientific foundation of the company worked, it would change the lives of millions and the medical world as we know it. So, investors and patients began dumping a great deal of money into Holmes’ company and her personally. After only a few short years, the company had raised $950 million in capital and was valued at over $9 billion, making Holmes the world’s youngest self-made female billionaire. With her black turtlenecks and deep voice to imitate Steve Jobs, Elizabeth Holmes quickly became the focus of Silicon Valley, gracing the cover of multiple influential magazines in 2014.

There are many complex nuances to the Theranos story— both how it so quickly rose to the top, and then how it quickly fell. So when the Wall Street Journal revealed that Theranos was utilizing equipment from other companies in 2015, concerns about the company’s technology started to surface. Employees of Theranos, such as Erica Chun, spoke out against the company, claiming that “[the test] wasn’t in existence.” Patients who used Theranos’ blood tests and received incorrect diagnoses of severe diseases criticized the company’s egregious fraud. Not too long after, in 2018, the company collapsed and Holmes was indicted. 

Following a trial last year, Elizabeth Holmes was convicted on four charges of wire fraud and conspiracy for making fraudulent claims. Despite having appealed her case and allegedly having two babies to gain public sympathy, Holmes’ appeals to be acquitted were rejected. She was sentenced to 11 years and three months in a minimum-security prison camp for women. With this sentence, the court intended to demonstrate to other start-ups in Silicon Valley— a region with a troubled history of abusing the rules— that there are repercussions for going too far with the “fake it till you make it” philosophy. 

So, on May 30th, Holmes reported to the Federal Prison Center (FPC) Bryan wearing jeans, glasses, and a sweater to begin her sentence working for a wage starting at $1.15 per hour. According to the prison’s handbook, the work enables the women to “[focus] on their strengths so they may develop additional marketable skills.” While serving her time, Holmes will be forced to shed the mimicked Steve Jobs attire and replace it with prison-issued khaki pants, green shirts, and inexpensive gray or white athletic shoes. People Magazine captured Holmes for the first time on June 3 sporting this prison camp attire. Additionally, Holmes will not have any access to the internet and will be limited to 15-minute-long video calls with her two children. FPC Bryan provides recreational activities including music programs, table games, movies, arts and crafts, and exercise facilities to keep their inmates busy. 

As Elizabeth Holmes spends the next decade of her life in prison, we can only hope that she will take the time necessary to understand the atrocity of her actions at Theranos. But for the time being, we should simply be grateful that Holmes was stopped when she was and that no more lives were harmed as a result.