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Blagojevich Wins An Extra Month Before Going To Prison

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Rod Blagojevich

Deposed Gov. Rod Blagojevich addresses reporters after a judge sentenced him to 14 years in prison. (Credit: CBS)

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UPDATED 12/13/11 9:37 p.m.

CHICAGO (CBS) — Deposed Gov. Rod Blagojevich has won an extra 30 days before he will have to report to prison.

CBS 2’s Vince Gerasole reports U.S. District Judge James B. Zagel approved Blagojevich’s request for extra time so he could sell his house and help his family move.

Blagojevich’s reporting date has now been moved from Feb. 16 to March 15.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s John Cody reports

CBS 2 Legal Analyst Irv Miller said it’s not uncommon for a judge to agree to push back a convicted felon’s date for reporting to prison when family matters are at stake.

“It’s done very frequently. If there’s any reason whatsoever you need more time getting your affairs in order or family reasons, it’s a request that’s typically granted by a federal district judge,” Miller said.

Blagojevich’s attorneys on Tuesday also requested a prison where the ex-governor will serve his sentence. Blagojevich is hoping to go to the Federal Correctional Institution Englewood in Littleton, Colo., 15 miles southwest of Denver.

The low-security facility houses male offenders, and also has a dorm-style prison camp for minimum-security offenders.

The inmate orientation handbook doesn’t sound too bad. The introduction describes the Englewood prison as being “located along the foothills of the Rocky Mountains in the southwestern suburbs of Denver.”

The facility has pool tables, ping pong, foosball and a prison library, but reality sets in on page 3 of the handbook, where it reads, “If you are a new commitment, you are not permitted to bring clothing, toilet articles, a watch or smoking materials into the institution. They will be mailed home or destroyed. If married, you may keep in your possession one plain wedding band with no stones.”

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s John Cody reports

Federal Correctional Institution Englewood topped Money Magazine’s list of best places to go to prison, located 15 minutes outside of Denver.

The facility’s low security area is still surrounded by barbed wire, but inmates are housed in four-man open cinder block cubes, not behind bars, and they have the use of a commissary, library and typewriter.

According to the visitation regulations in the handbook, “Physical contact between inmates and visitors will be limited to an embrace and kiss at the beginning and end of each visit and holding hands during the visit. No other contact is permitted. Violations will cause the visit to be terminated.”

Miller said, “Knowing he has to go to a (low-security) facility, this is among the best of the low facilities in the entire nation; a smart choice.”

Although the final decision is up to the federal Bureau of Prisons, defense attorney Sheldon Sorosky said Zagel’s recommendation should help a bit.

“I would say it’s a granule of sugar in favor of going to that place,” Sorosky said.

It was also noted in court the Englewood prison has a drug and alcohol abuse program. There is no apparent evidence Blagojevich struggles with substance abuse, but if he eventually does, taking part in the program could shave up to a year off his 14-year sentence.

“It’s something the Bureau of Prisons considers at the moment the inmate arrives at the front door. We don’t know what’s going to happen between now and that particular day when he arrives,” Miller said.

Scott Fawell, who was chief of staff to former Gov. George Ryan and served five years in federal custody on his own corruption conviction, said he signed up for the inmate drug and alcohol abuse program, called RDAP, when he entered prison. He thinks Blagojevich, whether he thinks he needs it or not, might want to do the same thing to shave some time off his sentence.

“No matter if you’re there 24 months, 26 months, 48 months or 14 years, the reality is once you’re in there, your goal when you walk in the door is to get out of there,” Fawell told CBS 2’s Mike Parker.

Zagel sentenced Blagojevich to 14 years in prison on last Wednesday. He was convicted over the summer on 17 counts of corruption, including trying to sell President Barack Obama’s vacant U.S. Senate seat.

Blagojevich must serve at least 85 percent of his sentence, and thus will be eligible for release in about 12 years.

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