Imprisoned former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich wrote an op-ed from behind bars calling for prison reform.
In his editorial, posted by the Washington Examiner, Blagojevich said he is living “the reverse American dream” along with several other inmates at a prison in Colorado.
“The national debate in Congress on prison and sentencing reform is a conversation that is long overdue,” he wrote. “And as that debate heats up, I’d like to offer a few points of my own and share some things I’ve learned on this painful journey.”
Blagojevich detailed his role as a dishwasher in the prison, noting that many jobs for inmates pay less than $1 an hour.
“I never expected to get rich in prison, but am I wrong in viewing this rock-bottom wage as society's way of showing its contempt, telling us that we are all worthless? Is that a good message to send to people we plan to release someday, and whom we'd rather not see offend again?”
Blagojevich criticized what he described as “tough on crime” policies and mandatory minimum laws, a rush to conviction and lack of “compassionate release” approvals.
“My time in prison has taught me that we need serious reforms. It’s also taught me that there are a lot of people in here with good hearts,” he wrote. “Instead of creating a system that punishes and dehumanizes inmates, let’s create a system that rehabilitates prisoners and prepares them for life outside of prison. So here is my message: We can never reach our potential until we as a people rise up and demand that our elected representatives bring about reform.”
Blagojevich isn’t the only recognizable name called for reform in the criminal justice system.
Reality television star Kim Kardashian West, who successfully pushed President Donald Trump to grant a pardon for a drug offender earlier this year, has met with senior aides in the White House to talk about similar issues.
Kardashian West last visited the White House three months ago to press for a pardon for 63-year-old Alice Marie Johnson, who served a more than two-decade stint on drug charges.
"When I looked at Alice, I said we can't just stop with one person. We have to change the laws," Kardashian said in a statement released by #cut50, a group that looks to reduce incarceration time.
The pardon for Johnson was one of several instances where the president has used his constitutional power to pardon federal crimes. Trump in May pardoned conservative commentator Dinesh D'Souza and suggested he was considering a commutation for Blagojevich and a pardon for lifestyle guru Martha Stewart. He has not yet acted on either front.