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Rod Blagojevich a substance abuser? He seeks treatment in prison.

Ex-Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, ordered to report to US prison Feb. 16, seeks to enter a prison substance abuse program. It can shave a year off his time behind bars, but does he really have an abuse problem?

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Because the program has a mechanism to determine if a request is legitimate, it is unlikely Blagojevich can manipulate it in his favor, says Mr. McRae.

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“The fact that you have the probation department and judge as well as all the people involved where this referral is happening, you would think the presence of all those people would serve as a filter to determine if this is a meritorious or nonmeritorious effort,” he says.

Federal judges are inclined to support these kinds of recommendations, McRae says, because they view incarceration as not just imprisonment, but also rehabilitation.

“People think the purpose of prison is purely for punishment and the state doesn’t care how long people stay there. [The Blagojevich recommendation] is actually insight into the fact that the criminal justice system tries to provide paths and mechanisms and incentives for people to come out as productive citizens,” he says.

The Chicago Sun-Times reports that Blagojevich's request may have originated with Scott Fawell, a former chief of staff for incarcerated Illinois Gov. George Ryan who himself served 78 months for his role in Mr. Ryan’s corruption case. In the report, Mr. Fawell said he told Blagojevich to pursue the substance abuse program because it shortened his own stint in prison by 1-1/2 years.

“I didn’t want to do it at first. I said: ‘I’m going to save a little shred of dignity.' But it’s the only game in town. It’s the only way you can get time off,” he told the Sun-Times. 

Judge Zagel is recommending that Blagojevich report to a federal prison in Littleton, Colo., outside Denver. But federal prison officials will decide where Blagojevich is incarcerated, considering capacity and the attributes of the individual inmate.

Blagojevich is ordered to surrender to prison officials Feb. 16. His wife and two daughters do not plan to move to the Denver area, according to his lawyers. The family’s five-bedroom, 3,817-square-foot home is listed on the market for $998,000 and is represented by Patti Blagojevich, his wife.

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