This past week former Illinois Governor Rod Blagoyevich (Blago for short) was sentenced to 14 years in federal prison. Among his crimes (he is now covicted so we need not say “alleged”) were: the attempt to “sell” Obama’s vacated senate seat (the governor has the right to appoiont an interim senator); the refusal to release state funds for a children’s hospital until they donated to his campaign (slush) fund; and his shake-down of race track owners by theatening to take away racing dates unless they too made campaign contributions.
So, was his a condign punishment? He’ll end up serving a total of 11years, 5 months in prison. I’ve met inmates with seemingly less serious convictions who were hit with more time. And I’ve met some with equal offenses (corporate CEO fraud) who got less time. Blago is probably in a penalty range that’s fitting.
I can’t laugh, joke or feel smug about Blago’s impending prison time though, because I know what the man is going through. In my book I write about this – the twilight time between sentencing and prison. It’s awful. There’s the persistently depressing thought that everything you are now experiencing – your family, a restaurant meal, driving a car, wearing your own clothes – will soon come to a crashing halt. That oppressive sadness dampens any possible joy or happiness. As I worte in the book: “The threat of prison imposes its own prison….Where once there was laughter now there were smiles. Where once there were smiles now there was nothing.”
And of course his wife and two young daughters are suffering along with him. Here’s the rub: once Blago gets settled into and develops a routine, his daily life should actually improve. But as time goes on, conditions for his family will probably worsen. Money will become more scarce, life-styles will change, friends will desert them and the unavoidable comparisions between what was and what is will only aggravate the deteriorating circumstances.
When Balgo enters prison on February 13, 2012 it will mean that Illinois’ two most recent governors will be seving federal prison terms concurrently. No, there should be no rejoicing or high-fiving. We all lose on this one.