Profiles of Rod Blagojevich

The New York Times has an AP profile of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, whose corruption trial begins Thursday.

Some things I didn't know about his accomplishments as Governor:

He raised the minimum wage (angering some business groups), provided state-subsidized health insurance to every child in Illinois, banned discrimination of gays and lesbians, increased education spending, won approval to expand preschool and increased mammogram and cervical cancer screening for uninsured women.

He also opened a prison solely for drug offenders that stressed prevention and re-entry programs. [More...]

From his 2003 State of the Union address:

“Illinois leads the nation in drug-related crimes. We should lead the nation in drug crime prevention. Today, I am announcing that we will re-open Sheridan prison as a national model institution aimed solely at deterring drug crime. Drug addicts return to the streets - only to land right back in jail - after finding new victims and committing new crimes. Since more criminals are in Illinois prisons for drug-related offenses - the more we reduce drug crime, the safer our streets will be.”

The Sheridan Prison:

By re-opening Sheridan Correctional Center with the goal of becoming a national model drug prison and reentry program, Governor Blagojevich is taking on a root cause of repeat crime in Illinois. While this project will not resolve a drug problem overnight that took decades to develop, it is the Governor's hope that it will establish a successful model for giving the state and its communities the tools they need to address a leading cause of recidivism with an approach that balances both tough law enforcement as well as common sense prevention.

In building this model, the Governor established a team of national, state and local experts that built a program based on national best practices, community input and recommendations about how to improve upon lessons learned in other states.

How it worked:

The Sheridan Working Group sought national best practices from programs that have proven to reduce crime and recidivism and to address drug addiction. Overwhelmingly, experts cited that the most successful programs used a “therapeutic community” model to provide drug treatment in prisons, but that they could not continue their success without the development of extensive community partnerships and reentry programs targeting job placement and aftercare services that teach offenders to responsibly manage their addiction and a crime-free lifestyle in the community. In awarding contracts for the program, it was stipulated that all providers show previous experience in establishing best practices and reducing recidivism in Illinois or across the nation in these areas.

On the re-entry program:

The Sheridan project's reentry programming begins the day that an offender reaches the facility where accountability and responsible crime-free living will be stressed along with recovery from addiction. The reentry of all offenders back into their communities upon completion of their sentence is managed by a team led by a parole agent providing intensified law enforcement supervision with the goal of moving the offender away from returning to criminal and drug-related activities and toward honest jobs, and a drug-free and crime-free life. The parole agent's case management is supported by both TASC clinical case managers who will move offenders through a year-long aftercare program that includes substance abuse treatment, family reunification issues, and anger management issues as well as by an intensive job readiness and placement program operated by the SAFER Foundation. Incentives, alternatives as well as sanctions are imposed on parolees involved in the program to move them toward rehabilitation. If the offender poses a threat to their community at any time during their parole, however, their agent sends them back to prison.

Instead of restricting parole, Sheridan changed the concept:

Sheridan was launched in connection with the Governor's “Operation Spotlight” Parole Reform program, which is working toward doubling the number of parole agents and creating an improved case management model designed to reduce recidivism and improve public safety. Governor Blagojevich believes that through establishing smaller caseloads for the state's parole agents, they can better manage the return of record numbers of offenders to Illinois communities. With increased numbers and improved training, agents are increasingly able to better assess, for example, when to return a parolee back to prison for posing a risk to their community, but also when to direct a nonviolent offender to drug treatment as a more effective alternative. Specialized training for parole agents was providing on a statewide basis regarding the management of the returning Sheridan population, and what was learned from that process was then used to improve overall parole agent training to improve the management of all drug-involved parolees. This statewide process has helped to reduce the statewide new offense rate among parolees to the lowest levels in state history.

So, was Blagovjevich an early supporter of being smart about crime instead of merely tough on crime. It seems so:

Various studies have estimated that for every dollar spent on prevention, such as drug treatment, the taxpayer can save as much as $7 in the long-term on reduced costs to society for incarceration, health care and other costs to victims, increased employment among those that would have been incarcerated, and improved overall social functioning in communities.

One year later, the Sheridan program was drawing compliments.

Every inmate involved in the program is immersed into a therapeutic community environment that involves intensive drug treatment, cognitive skills development, counseling and mental health services. The goal of these services is to make the offender accountable for addressing both his drug addiction as well as to change the fundamental values and attitudes that have driven past criminal behavior. The prison-based drug treatment is provided by the Gateway Foundation, which has been recognized for successfully reducing crime and recidivism among drug-involved offenders in their programs nationwide.

Blago's reaction to the prison program one year later:

It is time to stop accepting the vicious cycle of crime and drugs – one that has resulted in record numbers of offenders returning to Illinois’ communities without the skills and preparation they need to live crime- and drug-free lives.”

This first round of participants has not only shown a significant reduction in new offenses, but they have also been more likely to gain honest employment – another promising factor in moving them away from a life of crime and toward productive citizenship,” the Governor added. “Over the long-term, the success of this program will mean safer communities and reduced costs to taxpayers who are forced to foot the bill for new prison and incarceration costs.

The press constantly portrays him as a crook, an incompetent, an absentee Governor, a man only into the job for what he could get out of it, it's nice to know he wasn't as one-sided as he comes across.

He's not a fingers in every pie kind of guy. He doesn't micromanage (His assistants should earn their pay and report back to him.)He calls himself a "big picture kind of guy." I like him more every time I see him unscripted, which usually is after a press conference or on Celebrity Apprentice. Patty did the "I'm a Celebrity Get me Out of Here reality show. She was the best perons on it.

Fitz's office has been gearing up for a long time. They're pulling out all the stops, using motions in limine to prevent Blago from making some statements, while asking that their corrupt witnessss be allowed to make the same kind of statements.

And while jury selection starts Thursday, it's been going on for weeks with the Judge receiving hardship applications and ruling on them without Team Blago being present. He filed a motion complaining, the Government took the opposite side and the Court ruled for the Government.

I remember back during Timothy McVeigh's trial, the judge sent out early summons to about 1,000 jurors. They filled out hardship forms but we were there and the judge heard our opinions before ruling on them. This is part of voir dire, selecting the jury, and I think both sides have a right to be present.

The deck is certainly stacked against Blago, perhaps for good reason, perhaps not, but I'm keeping an open mind and going to report on things that develop during trial I find curious or unfair.

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  • Display: Sort:
    Thanks for pointing this out (5.00 / 3) (#1)
    by gyrfalcon on Mon May 31, 2010 at 07:49:59 AM EST
    The press has presented a totally one-sided picture of Blagojevich.

    The record you cite, not all of which I was familiar with, is one reason I still haven't been able to make up my mind about what I think of him.

    OTOH, it is possible to have a real humanitarian and a personally corrupt dork within the same person, though it doesn't happen often.  It's possible for the human mind to think that because you knock yourself out to do such good things for other people, you're therefore fully entitled to skim some of the cream for yourself.

    But he is a puzzle.

    Blagojevich instituted a "free rides" (5.00 / 1) (#5)
    by KeysDan on Mon May 31, 2010 at 02:47:18 PM EST
    program for seniors on buses and trains, throughout Illinois, including the vast Chicago Transit Authority

    The good/bad dichotomy is not (none / 0) (#6)
    by caseyOR on Mon May 31, 2010 at 04:26:32 PM EST
    unusual in Illinois governors. Blago's predecessor, George Ryan, is serving time  for his crimes, but he also was the one who commuted the sentences of everyone on Illinois' death row to life w/o parole. He took that action because DNA evidence was revealing so many wrongful convictions.

    Otto Kerner, a seriously good guy in so many ways, ended up in prison. The Kerner Report, written in the wake of the Detroit riots, is still an excellent study of the ways racism and poverty play out to our national detriment.

    I'm not sure why this seems to happen so often in Illinois.


    Good Connection (none / 0) (#7)
    by squeaky on Mon May 31, 2010 at 04:36:24 PM EST
    Had not thought of it. More than likely, in order for people to get to the top, their hands get dirty even though they have good intentions.

    Or a more cynical answer would be that Politican's thirst for power is by way of craving adulation. They will do whatever it takes to get it. They do bad things so the powerful few who are bad people adore them (and grant them power), and do good things so that most of the rest of their constituents adore them and keep voting for them.


    Yes, and Dan Walker, (none / 0) (#8)
    by KeysDan on Mon May 31, 2010 at 05:32:01 PM EST
    ended up in jail after serving as Illinois governor.  Before being elected he chaired the Walker Report that studied the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago, and concluded that it was a "police riot".  He and Mayor Richard J. Daley did not have an entirely warm relationship.  After the governorship Walker was involved in a S&L scandal wherein the Judge found that he was using the savings institution as a personal piggy bank.  

    How could I forget Dan Walker? Remember his walk (none / 0) (#9)
    by caseyOR on Mon May 31, 2010 at 06:08:41 PM EST
    across the state during his gubernatorial campaign? I can still picture his red bandanna and his boots.

    His transgressions came after he left office, unlike the others who committed their crimes while in elected office. Nonetheless, Walker is yet another Illinois governor brought low by the criminal justice system.


    Nice Post (none / 0) (#2)
    by squeaky on Mon May 31, 2010 at 12:14:06 PM EST
    Looks like everyone has a side that has been underexposed. Fitzgerald, the one time hero appears to be playing dirty pool, and Blago has saintly qualities.

    Thanks for the post, I have been repulsed by Blago until now.. he is a mensch.

    Agree the court should not make decisions (none / 0) (#3)
    by oculus on Mon May 31, 2010 at 12:21:19 PM EST
    re hardship applications of jurors except in the presence of and after listening to counsel for all parties.  

    Unsure (none / 0) (#4)
    by roger on Mon May 31, 2010 at 01:17:19 PM EST
    about Blogo, everything that I've heard seems to be that he was looking out for his state, not himself personally

    Illinois politics (none / 0) (#10)
    by Zorba on Mon May 31, 2010 at 08:03:45 PM EST
    has been positively Byzantine for a long, long time.  Good things have been done by people who have subsequently been indicted (and even convicted).  I cannot defend Rod (or any Illinois politician who has done both good and bad).  But I cannot deny that he has done some good things.  This is Illinois politics.  This is America.

    good reporting (none / 0) (#11)
    by klassicheart on Mon May 31, 2010 at 08:55:32 PM EST
    It takes courage to go against the political group think...and you do it quite often.  Hooray.  I agree with you by the way.  Not an even playing field. And the press is the most corrupt of all. Maybe we should put them on trial, individually.