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December 15, 2011

"Blagojevich seeks drug treatment in prison"

The title of this post is the headline of this notable new Chicago Tribune article, which gets started this way:

Convicted former Gov. Rod Blagojevich wants to enroll in a substance-abuse program at a federal prison outside of Denver, a move that could shave up to a year off of his prison sentence.

Blagojevich’s legal team, however, has downplayed the request, briefly mentioning the drug program by only its acronym in court Tuesday, resulting in hardly anyone noticing among a throng of reporters. And then, a day later, the attorneys declined to comment at all. But the move raises questions about whether Blagojevich suffers from a real substance-abuse problem or is simply angling to reduce his stiff 14-year sentence.

Two former associates of another convicted former Illinois governor, George Ryan, said Wednesday that they remember it didn’t take much to get into the Residential Drug Abuse Treatment Program — as little as regularly consuming five alcoholic drinks a week before they had been incarcerated.

“Any defense lawyer in town that’s worth their salt all know about this and they all try to get their clients in,” said Scott Fawell, Ryan’s former chief of staff who cut his sentence by about 8 months by completing the drug program at a federal prison in Yankton, S.D. “(A lot) of the people who go through the system now ask for it or attempt to get in. How many actually need it, I couldn’t tell you.”

U.S. District Judge James Zagel agreed this week to recommend Blagojevich for the counseling program at a low-security prison in Littleton, Colo., but the ultimate decision will be made by the U.S. Bureau of Prisons. According to the agency’s guidelines, inmates must have “a verifiable substance-use disorder.”

“The bottom line is that we look for evidence that the inmate has a documented substance-abuse history before their arrest,” said Chris Burke, a spokesman for the Bureau of Prisons. “If that is five drinks a week and there is something to verify that beyond that inmate’s statement, that might qualify.”

At the Littleton facility, inmates are given an initial screening by medical and psychological staff on their arrival at the institution but are not screened for admittance into the substance-abuse program until three to four years before their release date. Inmates must have a proven history of substance abuse within the 12-month period before their arrest.

Big moral of this story: if you start getting investigated by the feds, it might well be in your best interest to start driving heavily.

Big concern about this story: recidivism data suggests the RDAP program in the federal system does lots of good, and I sincerely hope that Blago does not become a bad apple that ruins the RDAP bunch.

December 15, 2011 at 05:58 PM | Permalink

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Comments

"recidivism data suggests the RDAP program in the federal system does lots of good,"

And the story implies that the reason there is so little recidivism is because most people who go through the program don't have a real drug problem to begin with.

Posted by: Daniel | Dec 15, 2011 9:15:21 PM

"The drug abuse program is so attractive it has cultivated a cottage industry of consultants who advise convicts and their lawyers on how to get in. Among them is Larry J. Levine, who started American Prison Consultants after serving nine years for drug-related charges. Levine's Web site boasts that by taking advantage of "obscure" prison policies he can help prospective prisoners "receive extra time off their sentence even with no evidence of drug or alcohol abuse in their [presentence] report." For a fee of up to $5,000 Levine advises clients how to get into the program and how to maximize the resulting sentence reduction. For example, he suggests that clients show up drunk on the day they surrender so that they get interviewed about their substance abuse problem right away. "BOP is looking for reasons to put people into the program," he says."
How Business Crooks Cut Their Jail Time, Kai Falkenberg,
Forbes Magazine dated January 12, 2009
White-collar offenders can get a year off their terms for doing rehab. Funny how many suddenly discover they have substance abuse problems. http://www.forbes.com/forbes/2009/0112/064.html

Posted by: Paul | Dec 16, 2011 8:48:02 AM

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