The attorneys of Rod Blagojevich have people scratching their heads over a request this week that their client be admitted into a drug rehab program in prison. Rod Blagojevich served as governor of Illinois until he tried to sell or trade the U.S. Senate seat that was vacated when Barack Obama became president in 2008. Blagojevich was convicted of 18 counts of corruption, and faces 14 years in prison.
The request for the drug program was made by Blagojevich’s lawyers briefly, and without much discussion. A few days later, the lawyers refused to comment on the request or about any drug problem the former governor may have. No one is aware of any drug abuse problem during the 3 years since Blagojevich’s arrest in December 2008.
If the request is granted, Blagojevich will serve his sentence out at a lower-security facility in Littleton, CO. Blagojevich is expected to serve 12 years of his 14 year sentence, and by completing the drug problem he could get another year of that shaved off. The drug program, which doesn’t take place until near the end of the inmate’s sentence, allows inmates to spend mornings in small group therapy sessions and go through educational classes about drug abuse.
Is Drug Treatment Necessary?
Questions continue to be raised over Blagojevich’s need for drug rehab and many people expect it is a strategic move to reduce his sentence. Lawyers are increasingly using tactics like this to get their clients out sooner. “Any defense lawyer in town that’s worth their salt all know about this and they all try to get their clients in,” said Scott Fawell, chief of staff of another convicted IL governor. “(A lot) of the people who go through the system now ask for it or attempt to get in. How many actually need it, I couldn’t tell you.”
“The bottom line is that we look for evidence that the inmate has a documented substance-abuse history before their arrest,” said Chris Burke, a spokesman for the Bureau of Prisons. “If that is five drinks a week and there is something to verify that beyond that inmate’s statement, that might qualify.” (1)
Creating Effective Programs for Those Who Need It
Inmates and their lawyers who abuse the system by making up a substance abuse problem are taking much needed treatment away from others. “As inmates become more aware of the program and what it offers, I think it has been more challenging for us to weed out those inmates who are just trying to game the system,” said Burke. (1)
Prison drug treatment programs need to be looked at more closely. Too many people get in for the wrong reasons – people who don’t even have a drug or alcohol problem. Too many other people who really need it aren’t recommended for treatment, or they have to wait so long for treatment that it is ineffective.