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Gazette Premium Content OUR VIEW: We shouldn't cage Rod Blagojevich

WAYNE LAUGESEN Updated: March 16, 2012 at 12:00 am

Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich became a Colorado resident on Thursday when he checked into the Federal Correctional Institution in Englewood. The colorful convict wallowed in his celebrity on the plane trip from Chicago and upon his arrival in Colorado, where he boarded a limousine and stopped off at a popular burger joint to have his picture taken with star-struck customers. He oozed the enthusiasm of a college student who had arrived on a beach for spring break. As Carole King says, “you’ve got to get up every morning with a smile on your face.”

Blagojevich requested Englewood, and the judge granted it. Unlike some correctional facilities, it will not make him cut his famous hair. Englewood Correctional is also home to former Enron President and COO Jeffrey Skilling and Mike Carona, the former Orange County, Calif., sheriff who was convicted of witness tampering in 2009.

The prison has also been home to Oklahoma City bombers Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols.

Ron Cole, a former resident of Englewood Correctional, took questions from Gazette staffers and readers on Facebook, explaining what it’s like to live in the prison.

The good news for Blagojevich: “Fame DOES matter, for example. That can save your a**,” wrote Cole, who was a high-profile prisoner convicted on weapons-related charges in the 1990s. “It might help him avoid a lot of the normally-expected problems... doors will be open to him that would otherwise be closed to a thin white guy with no tattoos.”

The bad news: “Having a family (in my case, I’d been married for 3 months and my son was born while I was there) makes prison an almost unendurable torture. Everything you do to make the family situation closer, like using the phone, causes big problems in other ways.”

Cole said one can be married with children and still get labeled as “gay” by other inmates. “That’s bad on all sorts of levels and could be life-threatening... But being known, or famous, helps avoid that sort of thing,” Cole wrote.

Blagojevich will probably thrive in prison. He enjoys challenges, and this will probably be viewed by him as merely the latest chapter in a life of drama. Anyone hoping he will suffer may be sadly disappointed.

Those who will suffer, for at least the next 12 years, are his wife and young children. Daddy won’t come home at night. They may cry themselves to sleep.

The United States has the highest number of inmates and prisoners in the world — even more than countries, such as China and India, with populations that dwarf ours. We abuse prisons, using them as part of a political arsenal to punish men and women who don’t belong behind bars.

Is a long prison term appropriate for Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich? Vote in poll to the right. Must vote to see results.

Blagojevich is a criminal and deserves punishment. But he is not a violent person. We should cage people who pose violent threats to society if left to roam freely. We could protect society, and punish Blagojevich, by simply imposing an enormous fine, banning him from public service of any sort, and monitoring his communication and financial activities for decades. We could take from him the power and tools he used to commit crimes of political corruption. We could demand financial reparation. We could punish Blagojevich without causing irreparable harm to his innocent children.

That's our view. What's yours? Please initiate or join in a Facebook discussion below, and vote in poll to the upper right.

Friend editorial page editor Wayne Laugesen on Facebook, follow him on Twitter

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