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Former federal prisoners: Blagojevich in for a shock

June 28, 2011 8:10:36 PM PDT
Experts say former governor Rod Blagojevich could spend as much as a dozen years in prison for his conviction. So what will life be like in a federal prison?

Chicago's former city clerk, Jim Laski, says it's easy to appreciate the small things in life after spending a year in a federal prison. The sunshine, green grass and the sounds of kids playing are all things he now never takes for granted.

"This is a system where you are not a human being anymore," he said.

Laski was sent to the federal lockup four years ago after pleading guilty to taking bribes and obstructing justice. He says the switch from being a former governor and celebrity to prisoner is going to be extremely difficult for Blagojevich.

"He's going to be there for bed checks, he's going to be there standing in line for food, he will be strip searched. There is a lot of indignity going on in prison, and he's going to have to wake up to that," said Laski.

It was a wake-up call for Betty Loren-Maltese when she reported to prison after being sentenced to several years behind bars for her conviction for stealing millions from the town of Cicero.

"You're shackled and chained right next to a drug addict, or you're shackled and chained next to a child molester or child murderer. There is no difference when it comes to prison. You are an inmate, plain and simple. He'll be known as a number, an eight-digit number," she told ABC7.

Loren-Maltese says it's impossible to mentally prepare for life in prison. Her advice for Blagojevich is to enjoy every minute with his two daughters.

Laski says the hardest day in his life was saying goodbye to his children when he left for prison.

"Rod Blagojevich has a possibility of missing his daughters' middle school graduation, high school graduation, and possibly college graduation with the time he is looking at. And I don't think anybody has ever prepared for that," said Laski.

Former governor Ryan aide Scott Fawell who spent four and a half years at federal prison camp says life behind bars is the hardest for the kids left behind at home.

"The next four, five days, they are saying, 'where did you go?' And yeah, that's difficult, when they kiss you good night and think they will see you at breakfast, and you're gone for 52 months," he said.

Fawell says the most difficult day was walking into prison because he had no idea what he was walking into.

Loren-Maltese also warns Blagojevich that high-profile prisoners get the worst jobs at prison. She says he should expect to clean the toilets.

The former federal prisoners all say they have great deal of sympathy for Blagojevich's children.


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