James Laski, a one-time Chicago City Clerk who spent a year in a West Virginia federal prison, describes prison life and offers some advice for Illinois' convicted governor.
The inmate guidebook for one Federal Correctional Institution in the Midwest, shows just how different former governor Rod Blagojevich’s existence will be when he begins serving his 14-year prison term. For the man who famously turned down living in Illinois’ palatial Governor’s Mansion, life is about to change in a big way.
The inmate guide for the prison in Milan, Mich., informs inmates that they can expect a complete medical and dental evaluation within two weeks of their arrival. Everyone is required to submit DNA samples, and an HIV test is required before departure.
If the governor is assigned to Milan, he will have a spending limit of $290 per month at the prison commissary. He can buy up to 60 first class stamps a week, but can’t have more in his possession at any time. No cash is used in the institution. He will have an inmate account, and there is a machine to check its balance.
He will have to submit a list of up to 30 people he might have occasion to call on the telephone.
The famous Blago hair will be cut by a prison barber. Hours are 7:30 to 10:30 a.m., 11:30 to 3:30 p.m., and 4:30 to 9:30 p.m. Prison regulations state that “there will be no hair cutting anywhere other than the barber shop.”
While he used to enjoy the protection of State Police bodyguards, now Blagojevich will be subject to searches at any time. Those can range from a patdown search, to strip searches, body cavity searches, and shakedowns of living areas. The entire prison undergoes routine headcounts: 5 times a day during the week, and a “stand-up count” at 10:00 a.m. on weekends.
While the governor was well known as a snazzy dresser who dropped tens of thousands of dollars with a Chicago tailor, he will now be required to wear a khaki shirt and pants every day during the week, 7:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. He must keep his shirt tucked in.
No visiting is allowed in housing units where inmates do not live.
There is no pay to play in prison. Blagojevich will be informed that he cannot trade commissary privelidges with other inmates. He cannot practice any kind of martial arts or kickboxing. He will not be allowed to display any offensive photos in his living area.
The former first lady and the Blagojevich children can visit Thursday through Sunday, and on Federal holidays, 8:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Patti must bring a photo i.d. for each visit, although none will be required for the children. No Blagojevich visitors can have more than $20 on them during a visit, and none of that money can be given to the governor. Visitors are not allowed to bring food, gum, newspapers, magazines, photos or photo albums, tapes, cameras, or cell phones.
Blagojevich is eligible for what is known as the “Low” classification of facility. In addition to Milan, there are four others in the Midwest: Ashland, Kentucky, Elkton, Ohio, Sandstone, Minnesota, and Waseca, Minnesota. He could request a “Medium” designation, the next higher security level. That would include Oxford, Wisconsin, and Terre Haute, Indiana, where former governor George Ryan is currently serving his own six and a half year term.