Ex-inmate: Blago's Colo. prison 'really not a bad place'

March 14, 2012 3:47:53 AM PDT
On Wednesday, former Governor Rod Blagojevich will make his final public statement before reporting to prison in Colorado. Why did he chose Englewood Federal Correctional Institution?

ABC7's Paul Meincke will report LIVE from Colorado as Blagojevich reports to prison.

Because his sentence is more than 10 years, Blagojevich is not eligible for a prison camp, as was the case with his immediate predecessor former Gov. George Ryan and nearly all the other defendants in Chicago area political corruption cases. Blagojevich is headed to a low security prison in Colorado where he will serve at least the first few years of a 14 year sentence.

Blagojevich had asked to be placed at the Englewood Federal Correctional Institution, located just outside Denver, and the Bureau of Prisons granted that request. Why Englewood? Among the Bureau's low-security prisons, this one regularly reports fewer incidents of violence. And, it has a prison camp next door that Blagojevich could be moved to once he's dropped below 10 years remaining on his sentence.

"And more importantly, that institution has more visits more times a week than other institutions in Illinois. It's really not a bad place," Larry Levine said. Levine, a former inmate, now makes his living preparing the recently convicted for life in federal prison. When he says "it's really not a bad place", he means that in a comparative sense.

For instance, Englewood, if visitors can afford the plane ticket, is much easier to get to than other more remotely located federal prisons. But any prison will present a life totally foreign to someone who once had ambitions of sitting in the White House.

"The biggest problem that most white collar criminals like Mr. Blagojevich have is that they relate immediately more to the BOP staff and the guard members than their fellow inmates, and that immediately puts them at odds with both parties," Patrick Boyce, Federal Prison Alternatives, said.

The message from Patrick Boyce, an ex-inmate who now also coaches the prison-bound, is Blagojevich should "get to know" the men who'll be his peers for the immediate future, but don't make a lot of noise, don't rock the boat, and do as he's told. Also, most important, Boyce said, don't think for a minute that anybody on the inside cares about what the ex-governor used to be.

"He should just be an honest and upfront person, talking about his family and regular life. Don't talk about how he was a big shot on the outside, because nobody cares about that," Boyce said.

Blagojevich will enter prison as a celebrity inmate. People who've been there say there will be some inmates who'll try to cozy up to him and others - arguably more - who'll look at him with some measure of disdain because of who he was and what he did.

A lot of that, the experts say, will go away with the passage of time so long as Blagojevich can demonstrate that he is just one of the guys - no better - no worse - because that's how he's going to be treated.