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Fawell: First Day In Prison ‘Rude Awakening To Change In Life’

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Scott Fawell, former chief of staff for convicted Gov. George Ryan, discusses his time in prison on the day Ryan's successor, convicted Gov. Rod Blagojevich reported to prison. (Credit: CBS)

Scott Fawell, former chief of staff for convicted Gov. George Ryan, discusses his time in prison on the day Ryan’s successor, convicted Gov. Rod Blagojevich reported to prison. (Credit: CBS)

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CHICAGO (CBS) – A “rude awakening to change in life.” That’s how Scott Fawell, who spent 4 ½ years in prison, describes the first hours former Gov. Rod Blagojevich will face now that he’s begun his 14-year prison sentence.

Fawell, who was convicted in the corruption scheme that brought down Blagojevich’s predecessor, former Gov. George Ryan, spent his time at a prison in South Dakota. He said the first day behind bars was the hardest.

“They strip search you is the first thing; which is the first rude awakening to change in life,” he said. “Then you usually sit for an hour in a room. They’ll bring you in, change you out of your clothing, pack up your stuff, put it in a box, make you sign for it. They’ll mail it back home. They’ll give you a … jumpsuit, initially, with a pair of blue boat shoes.”

Blagojevich reported to prison at FCI Englewood in Littleton, Colo., on Thursday to begin his sentence for his conviction on 18 corruption charges. His attorney said it took only minutes before he was handcuffed and led away by prison officials.

After he is strip searched and given his prison uniform, Fawell said Blagojevich will likely be put in another room to wait to be photographed for his prison ID card, and be fingerprinted. Then he’ll fill out a questionnaire, “which kind of asks you some questions about how’s your mood. You know, are you suicidal? Are you on any medication? Liquor? You know, they ask you just some basics.”

Fawell said the first night in prison is a shock for new inmates.

“I remember clearly laying that first night in the bunk, when it was, you know, lights out,” Fawell said. “A few people still talking in the room, because you’re in a bigger room initially. Because that’s where they keep an eye on newcomers.”

“You’re laying on a mattress that’s about four inches thick, and a plastic pillow, and old blankets, or military blankets,” he added. “It’s all heavy wool and you just lay there and, you know, you just stare at the ceiling.”

Fawell said Blagojevich will have to learn to keep his mouth shut; prison is about doing your time and flying under the radar. He also said he never got comfortable in prison, because he knew it was not his home.

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