September 30, 2018
Former Illinois Gov Rod Blagojevich makes "plea for prison reform"
The federal prison inmate formerly known as Blago has authored in the Washington Examiner this commentary published under the headline "Rod Blagojevich: My plea for prison reform." Here are excerpts:
I am living the reverse American dream — a bad dream that I share with other inmates at a prison in Colorado where I am currently serving a 14-year sentence. So what happened?
Carved in stone on the front portico of the U.S. Supreme Court building are the words “Equal Justice Under Law.” But as I sit here in prison, I can’t help but reflect on those four words and feel an overwhelming sense of sadness — not just for me, but for many of my fellow inmates as well. Here’s why.
It is not equal justice under law when over-sentencing is the rule rather than the exception; when our incarceration rate has increased by more than 500 percent over the last forty years; when an American citizen in good faith trusts the integrity of the courthouse, but to their horror discovers that the game is rigged, and that they are being denied a fair trial before proceedings even begin.
The national debate in Congress on prison and sentencing reform is a conversation that is long overdue. 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.
As a dishwasher, I start work at 3:30 each morning and earn a total of $8.40 a month. Did you know that the average wage for an inmate is 23 cents to $1.15 an hour? In some states, inmates have to work for free. 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? To people we hope will survive on their own without resorting again to crime?...
Did you know that the average cost to the taxpayer to house each inmate is around $33,000 a year? In California, taxpayers pay $75,000 a year per inmate. In total, taxpayers are left with a $39 billion invoice each year. And what’s the government’s solution? Increase our prison population and force hard working Americans to pay even higher taxes.
Did you know that federal prosecutors like to boast about their 97 percent conviction rate? Yet when you think about it, shouldn't that fact raise an alarm bell to all freedom loving people? Michael Jordan, as great as he was, only made half the shots he attempted. And knowing what I now know through my experience, this almost perfect success rate is convincing proof that the federal criminal justice system works against the accused. It is neither a place to expect a fair trial nor is it a place where the promise of justice for all is a promise kept.
Did you know that from 2013 to 2017, the Federal Bureau of Prisons denied 94 percent of the applications from inmates requesting a “compassionate release” due to a terminal illness? And in all of these cases, instead of dying with dignity surrounded by loved ones, terminally ill inmates were left to die alone in prison. Did you know that if a spouse or child passes away while you are in prison, that you’re not even allowed a furlough to attend the funeral services? Did you know that when incarcerated women give birth, that they are chained and handcuffed to the hospital bed?
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. 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; until freedom is safeguarded by a renewed and unwavering commitment to the rule of law; until mercy seasons justice, and fair play governs those who govern us.
September 30, 2018 at 03:23 PM | Permalink