Jackson Jr. follows path of other IL 2nd Congressional District politicians to jail

October 29, 2013

It contains all the same digits as Jean Valjean's infamous prison number. And beginning Tuesday-- like the central figure in Les Mis-- when asked who he is, it will be "I am Jesse Jackson Junior: 32451-016." For the next two and a half years, the former Chicago congressman will be defined by those digits.

And as he enters the minimum security prison, Jackson also enters a relatively small-- but growing-- fraternity of felon politicians from Illinois.

Ex-governor Rod Blagojevich was the most recent elected official Illinois official taking up federal prison space, in part because of a plot that included Jesse Jackson Junior's ascension to the U.S. Senate.

And former governor George Ryan recently got out of federal prison.

But it was Gus Savage who first walked through the pipeline from Chicago's 2nd Congressional District to the federal pen-- a decade into office, toppled by allegations of sexual misconduct with a Peace Corps worker.

Mel Reynolds was next to walk in Savage's footsteps from the 2nd district to prison. Reynolds also convicted of sex with a minor and fraud.

Jackson won the 2nd district in a 1995 landslide, and less than two decades later is also behind bars, representing what seems to have become a 2nd district tradition.

Oddly, even though Jackson is spending his first night in prison, the website bearing his name is still up and operating with photos of Jackson's better days in the 2nd, and encouraging early voting in February-- of 2012. The website, frozen in time, does still have this donation page where contributors may charge their credit cards as much as $2,500-- although it doesn't appear to be operational.

The schemes and scams that have landed more than 1,000 Illinois politicians in prison really haven't changed much over the century and a half since the first Chicago alderman went away. That was a kickback deal on city hall paint contracts, and now Jackson Jr. is doing time for misusing campaign funds.

He will celebrate his 49th and 50th birthdays in prison.

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