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Former Inmates Advice to Blagojevich: Check Your Ego

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    NEWSLETTERS

    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. (Published Tuesday, Dec 6, 2011)

    Illinois has no shortage of politicians who have spent time behind bars. And many of them have similar advice for Rod Blagojevich: check your ego and personality at the door, and pick them up on your way out.

    "They’ll make him clean a toilet," said Scott Fawell, who served four and a half years at a federal prison in Yankton, South Dakota.

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    The former chief of staff for Governor George Ryan says there are no celebrities in prison.

    "They’ll put you in your place pretty quick," he said.

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    The transition will be difficult for the former governor, according to James Laski, the one-time Chicago City Clerk who spent a year in a West Virginia federal prison.

    "From the State Mansion to a federal prison,he's going to have to deal with it on his own," Laski said.

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    Once he's assigned to a federal prison, Rod Blagojevich will follow the same process as all other inmates. He'll be taken to a holding cell photographed, fingerprinted and be issued his loose-fitting uniform. He could wind up in a dormitory, with communal bath and shower facilities, and eat his meals in a dining hall.

    Most importantly, for most inmates, he will be referred to not by his name, but by his number.

    "I'm 18413424," said Laski. "It doesn’t matter if he was on 'Celebrity Apprentice' or a two term governor."

    The worst part, Fawell said, is being separated from the ones you love.

    "The worst days in prison are the best days back home," he said. "You know everyone is together and having a good time and you are just sitting there."

    But despite the difficulties and indignities of incarceration, Blagojevich can take small comfort in the rules common to many federal prisons. There is no limit on hair length as long as it is "neat and clean." So while he may have to surrender all his personal possessions when he checks in, he will get to keep his famous hair style.