Former Chicago congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. did a "fastidious job" scrubbing toilets, showers, and sinks at a North Carolina prison and believes President Barack Obama should issue pardons to inmates who have served their sentences, according to letters sent to NBC Chicago.
The April 11 package includes a one-page, handwritten letter from Jackson and an eight-page letter from former Pennsylvania attorney John Karoly. The pair spent time together at the Federal Prison Camp in Butner before Jackson was moved to Alabama earlier this year.
Karoly's letter, which was accompanied by a signed affidavit from Jackson authorizing its release, provides a glimpse into Jackson's life in prison as well as the former congressman's thoughts on redemption.
"He's doing a fastidious job," ... "a toothbrush doing wonders on a clogged drain," Karoly wrote. "I later learn the inmate considers this a part of his personal penance. ... But no matter how hard he scrubs, he later tells me that it doesn't wipe his slate clean. He has embarrassed himself, his family name, and all those who counted on him to be different. Like the rest of us, he yearns for the forgiveness that has eluded him."
Jackson's note from the Alabama prison where he is serving a 30-month sentence mentions three inmates who have "shared this journey" with him.
Karoly called that journey "a mission of forgiveness," and said Jackson believes in presidential pardons for all former inmates.
"Jesse had an idea which is revolutionary," Karoly wrote. "Give each and every ex-offender who has done their time and paid their full debt to society a new life, a real second chance."
"When you pay off your credit card debt in full, you no longer owe anything. ... The full utilization of the president's power to forgive may be the greatest legacy any president can leave behind."
Karoly said Jackson believes that if President Richard Nixon was pardoned, the same language is "good enough for every American."
Jackson spoke of forgiveness last summer, when he was sentenced in federal court in Washington, D.C.
"Today I manned up and accepted the error of my ways," Jackson said after he was sentenced. "And I still believe in the resurrection."
Jackson is serving a 2 1/2-year sentence after admitting to illegally using campaign money. The Bureau of Prisons lists his release date as Dec. 31, 2015. Afterward, he must spend three years on supervised release and complete 500 hours of community service. He agreed to repay the $750,000 when he pleaded guilty.
His wife, Sandra Jackson, a former Chicago alderman, was sentenced to a year in prison for filing false joint federal income tax returns.