Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich departs his Chicago home for Littleton, Colo., to begin his 14-year prison sentence on corruption charges Thursday, March 15, 2012. The 55-year-old Democrat becomes the second Illinois governor in a row to go to prison for corruption. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
A newspaper in Rod Blagojevich’s new home state of Colorado thinks our former governor got an excessive sentence -- and questions the need to lock him up at all.
In the Colorado Springs Gazette, Wayne Laugesen quoted a former inmate at the Federal Correctional Institution in Englewood as saying that Blagojevich’s celebrity may make prison easier for him. He’s less likely to be hassled by gangs or labeled as gay.
Then Laugesen added:
"Blagojevich will probably thrive in prison. He enjoys challenges, and this will probably be viewed by him as merely the latest chapter in a life of drama. Anyone hoping he will suffer may be sadly disappointed.
Those who will suffer, for at least the next 12 years, are his wife and young children. Daddy won’t come home at night. They may cry themselves to sleep.
Blagojevich is a criminal and deserves punishment. But he is not a violent person. We should cage people who pose violent threats to society if left to roam freely. We could protect society, and punish Blagojevich, by simply imposing an enormous fine, banning him from public service of any sort, and monitoring his communication and financial activities for decades. We could take from him the power and tools he used to commit crimes of political corruption. We could demand financial reparation. We could punish Blagojevich without causing irreparable harm to his innocent children."
Blagojevich’s sentence seems harsh even to many of us in Illinois, but it looks even harsher to those outside the state, who may not understand that Blagojevich is being punished for the cumulative offenses of the governors who preceded him. His was the second-longest sentence ever delivered in Northern Illinois for a public corruption case.
It’s true that, now that he has been removed from the governorship, Blagojevich is no longer a threat to the public good. In the three years between his impeachment and the moment he entered federal prison, Blagojevich has not broken the law. In his case, taking away the office that allowed him to commit his crimes prevented him from committing any more crimes.
On the other hand, Laugesen’s argument is the same that defense lawyers often make for white collar criminals: that they’re suffered enough from the loss of their reputations, and that the imprisonment will be a hardship on their families. As though having a professional reputation and a family ought to spare one from the imprisonment inflicted on jobless criminals.
Was Blagojevich’s sentence too harsh? Does he need to be locked up? What do you think?
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