Former Prison Counselor To Blago: ‘Make The Best Of It’

Updated 03/14/12 – 4:34 p.m.

CHICAGO (CBS) — In the final hours before he reports to prison, former Gov. Rod Blagojevich is spending as much time as he can with his family.

Although the former governor was seen outside of his house a couple times during the day, he spent most of his time inside.

News helicopters hovered over his home for much of the afternoon on Wednesday and dozens of reporters and well-wishers gathered outside his home to wait for his final public statement, scheduled for 5:02 p.m.

Reporters surrounded Blagojevich as he left the house with his daughter, Annie, and a longtime friend who has frequently been mistaken for male model Fabio. When the former governor and his daughter returned about half an hour later, Annie chastised reporters who surrounded her father.

“If you’re going to see him at 5, then don’t do it now!” she shouted.

“That’s my baby,” Blagojevich said with a laugh. “She wanted me to tell you that we’re going to talk at 5 o’clock, we’ll see you then.”

But as reporters continued to ask Blagojevich questions while he walked into the house, Annie shouted out again.

“Ask questions later,” she said.

Blagojevich’s defense attorney, Sheldon Sorosky, showed up at the house later Wednesday afternoon. Sorosky said it was a sad day for his client, but he thought Blagojevich seemed to be keeping a positive attitude.

“He seemed very upbeat, and very hopeful, of course,” Sorosky said.

Sorosky said Blagojevich’s appeal was still in the “embryonic stages,” but he said he was confident Blagojevich had a chance to get his conviction overturned.

Several Blagojevich supporters gathered in front of the house throughout the day. Some of them pitched a sign reading, “We will pray for you,” and “thank you.”

Another sign called for “leniency” for Blagojevich and asked people to call the White House.

“It’s very sad. Chicago is very sad. Anybody who has a family, to see these kids taken away,” said Ziff Sistrunk, director of the Kirby Puckett Youth Center on the city’s South Side. “Chicago and Illinois, and the United States, could have been benefited by Mr. Blagojevich’s use of his talents and skills.”

Sometime between Wednesday evening, when Blagojevich addresses reporters outside his home around 5 p.m., and Thursday morning, Blagojevich will leave Chicago and fly to Denver, then drive to suburban Littleton, Colo.

He must report to the Englewood federal prison by 1 p.m. Chicago time Thursday. CBS 2’s Dana Kozlov has a look at what Blagojevich will face on his first day.

When Blagojevich walks through the prison doors at Englewood, he will lose almost all personal possessions, have restricted visiting hours, and live with little to no privacy in a room with at least one other roommate.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Steve Miller reports

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Regine Schlesinger has thoughts from Chicagoans

One former prison worker said it’s tough, but he’s seen inmates successfully adjust.

Former Englewood corrections officer and counseling officer Tim Allport said, “I can’t imagine him getting preferential treatment.”

At 6’5”, Allport is a hulking presence. He said he approached prisoners the same way he’d approach anyone else.

“Just, if I had a question, I would ask them. If they had a question, they would ask me,” Allport said.

In other words, Allport and other officers tried to foster an atmosphere of mutual respect behind the prison’s barbed wire and metal fences – to a degree.

“Prison’s a very equalizing experience,” he said.

It’s something Blagojevich will begin learning firsthand on Thursday, when he reports to Englewood to begin his 14-year sentence for his corruption conviction.

Federal defense attorney Rick Kornfeldt said he’s had a lot of clients sent to the prison in Littleton, Colo.

“A lot have gone to Englewood, because it’s one of the places that white collar folks end up,” he said.

Kornfeld spent about six years as a federal prosecutor in Chicago, before moving home to Colorado.

In his experience with clients, he said, “the people that do the best are people that realize that … they may have controlled their environment in the civilian world, or the outside world. The prison, they make it very clear, very quickly: you don’t control your environment.”

That could be difficult for the man who used to run the state.

Allport’s advice? “I would just advise people to make the best of it.”

Allport spent many of his 25 years at Englewood working as a counselor. He said there are programs inside the prison to benefit inmates like Blagojevich. The goal, he said, is rehabilitation.

The prison, built nearly 75 years ago, sits amid the sprawling Denver suburbs. Littleton resident Vickie Gibbs said, “It’s very, very nice; a little bit more upper class.”

That’s how people who live in Littleton describe it: peaceful, even with the federal prison right across the street.

Kristin Osborne said, “I’ve actually felt pretty safe, because if you look right down the road, you see a big (guard) tower.”

Osborne has lived in the Quincy Lake subdivision for four years, and she said there have been no problems. Security is tight. Inmates’ lives are kept very much out of public view.

Allport said, “You always have to remember you’re at … as do the inmates. We make them remember where they’re at.”

Allport spent 25 years working inside FCI Englewood, the prison where Blagojevich will likely spend the next 12 years of his life.

Visitation is only allowed Friday through Monday, and inmates only get so many hours of visitation per month. Calls are allowed, but limited to 300 minutes a month.

Allport said it’s tough, but inmates can do well.

“Most of the time they adjust fine,” he said.

Inside, there’s also a law and lending library, a weight room, a recreation yard, and arts and crafts programs. But Blagojevich should expect to have very little control over his time or life, and expect little comfort.

“He’ll see firsthand that the overcrowding in these prisons – even the lows – there’s hardly any space for your personal items,” said Dale Deshotel, president of the Council of Prison Locals, the federal prison workers’ union.

When the Englewood prison was built nearly 75 years ago, it was in the middle of nowhere, but now it’s in the middle of sprawling suburbia. Inside the prison, however, things haven’t changed much.

Blagojevich will be allowed to bring very little inside the prison, except for a plain wedding band and prescription eyeglasses. Although visitation is allowed, considering how far away the prison is from Chicago, one has to wonder how many visitors he will get in Colorado. His wife and children are not expected to move closer to Denver to be near him.

More from Dana Kozlov
  • German Leprechaun

    Perhaps Rod can take up poetry behind bars:

    Guard approaches
    Maybe he wants my autograph!
    Nope… cavity search

  • bruce irvins

    The FBI and DEA fabricate evidence, steal from suspects and use murder to close those bad cases.

    • Tom

      Bruce-Put on your tin foil hat and march on down to the pharmacy to renew your meds for paranoia.

    • Anti-Darkness

      huh? what article did you read?

      • WhatTheWhat

        Interesting how Tony Rezko and Blago are the only ones indicted with connections to Obama. What’s taking so long? Unelected officials took over Washington and the media after the coup and cover up. They think you can’t handle the truth. Fact of the matter is we have no democracy, president, and freedom of press is an illusion.

        Our next election is shaping up to be as big of a sham as the last. Do you know why Sarah Palin’s bus tour was really canceled? Do you know why she stayed 30 miles away from the second debate and chose the death of Steve Jobs to announce that she’s not running? Know what leaked out? Sarah Palin and Cain aren’t in the race for the same reason, the truth leaked out. Search PalinsDirtyLittleSecret for the biggest cover up in history

      • Another 6 Letter Word For Felony... BARACK!

      • NVRAT

        He must be an ex-Inglewood resident, slightly tapped.

  • KLM

    The real criminals are walking around free and going to basketball games, spending your money and on holiday every other week.

  • Uncle Omar Onyango Obama

    The real criminal is trying to get American Citizenship for his Illegal Immigrant Kenyan Uncle.

    • Barry "That's MR. Soetoro"

      Uncle Onyango!! Have you resolved your DUI charge yet?

  • tshep

    …he said. “Stay out of politics.”

    The REAL problem? We have too many liberals in the media that refuse to remain unbiased. They try to further the socialist agenda by refusing to report on what they should, ie: the media never vetted ObaMao in 2008; and they go along with the extreme left agenda by applying “rules” only to conservatives and giving liberals in politics a complete pass.
    We are Breitbart – the TRUTH is our weapon

  • Pat McGroinagin

    Blago was just another Obama stepping stone…..too greedy and power hungry to realize it. I doubt that even now, he truly understands what a sucker he was

  • Jonascord

    How much is Blago getting to be a standup guy and keep his mouth shut? Or, maybe he doesn’t want the Outfit that owns Obama to do something horrible to his kids…

  • Hank

    Criminal politicians, yet another violation of our rights. The gov’t constantly violates our rights.

    They violate the 1st Amendment by caging protesters and banning books like “America Deceived II”.

    They violate the 4th and 5th Amendment by allowing TSA to grope you.

    They violate the entire Constitution by starting undeclared wars.

    Impeach Obama, support Ron Paul.

    Last link of “America Deceived II” before it is completely banned:

    • eddieb

      Ron Paul? do you have a tin foil hat?

      • irrationalTHINKER

        Apparently the choice I would face as an american based on your reply is to be pro-TSA groping, pro-NDAA, pro-undeclared wars and nation building, pro-drones, pro-blatant media propaganda and censorship daily, pro-economic self destruction, pro-corruption, pro-administration/congress/banker/oilwarindustrialcomplex establishment elite organized ENTITY, etc etc etc, or to be a supporter of Ron Paul and the constitution and a TOUGH road back to what once made America the greatest nation on earth YET be labeled as a “tin foil hat guy”, then I will be wearing my tin foil hat to bed tonight and praying for the best! :))

    • wampuswickerbill

      Question is: Will Roddy boy take it in the Keister by Easter?

  • mmm

    obama should be in the next cell

  • CC Coleman

    Message : Embarrass THE ONE and you go to jail. Have evidence and speak out of turn against the THE ONE and you go to jail for a long time. Funny how he had to be tried twice. In the past, when acquitted of crimes you went free. Now they just retry you again and again until they get the result they want. Mistrial – Sms-trial! Baloney! I guess it was better than speaking out against Hilldabeast. She would have had him shot, rolled up in a rug, and dumped in the nearest park.

  • kettlecorn

    Blago isn’t going to spend 12 years in prison. he won’t even spend 1 year in prison. After the “messiah” gets voted out of office in November, the enraged “God” of socialism will do what he can legally do under the law before he goes, and that is issuing pardons to all his cronies, murders and thieves to pay back the American people who dared to remove this criminal in his own right from office. So don’t cry for Blago, it’s better than even money he goes free.

  • hi

    illinois is a very dangerous place to be a politician. i think that he is in jail for not being corrupt enough.

  • BC1960

    Based on what I read, Blago is no different than Rahm or any other politician that makes deals. If Blago goes to jail, they should all go to jail.

    Not saying what he did was right, but his techniques/strategy are much the same as every other politician

    • Burt

      So what’s your point? That all criminals should get caught and punished? Let me think about that …ok. That he should not be looked down at more than other politicians … not sure we should paint all with the same brush.

  • Kasey Serin

    Hi everybody!!!! ……waves…..

  • John C

    Blago’s right, politics is not for the morally weak like him.

  • Fishsnot


  • cookiebaggs

    ‘Don’t give up, don’t lose faith. Never give in and never despair,” he said. “Stay out of politics.”

    How about don’t be a dishonest crook like me.

  • Out Rage

    Can we send the rest of Illinois corrupt political figures along with those who over see the taxing bodies to prison? Please!!

    • Eric

      Chicago would be a ghost town.

  • radtec

    He’s in jail because he’s stupid, arrogant, and was a ‘tear off’. He won’t be doing much time as we all know he will be out in 1/2 the sentenced time plus whatever he gets cut off for taking AA class. In less than 3 years ‘the hair’ will be back on the streets, whining and crying. He won’t be ‘doing without’ anything and certainly will have more than most first year college students crammed into a cell, uh, dorm room with very little of their own stuff and any control over their new cell mate, uh, roommate. Quit feeling sorry for this loser.

  • smg45acp
  • Paul from NJ

    He’ll be out in January 2013, When Obummer is kicked out of office and uses his pardons.

  • KMC

    Ziff Sistrunk? Seriously? Can anyone take him seriously after this quote? What a joke..

    “It’s very sad. Chicago is very sad. Anybody who has a family, to see these kids taken away,” said Ziff Sistrunk, director of the Kirby Puckett Youth Center on the city’s South Side. “Chicago and Illinois, and the United States, could have been benefited by Mr. Blagojevich’s use of his talents and skills.”

  • Eric

    That he has “supporters” is a sad statement about how far we’ve sunk as a nation.

  • justice...

    BC 1960 is correct….Besides……He will be out in 4 years…..after the next Pres. Term.

    • kulin

      i hope not but i think you right

  • justice...

    Presidential Pardon…

blog comments powered by Disqus
Daily Weather Reports Delivered To You!SIGN UP NOW: Get daily weather reports every morning from meteorologist Steve Baskerville!
CBS Sports Radio RoundupGet your latest sports talk from across the country.

Listen Live