Convicted former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich wants to enroll in a substance-abuse program at a federal prison outside of Denver, a move that could shave up to a year off of his prison sentence, reports the Chicago Tribune. The move raises questions about whether Blagojevich suffers from a real substance-abuse problem or is simply angling to reduce his stiff 14-year sentence. Former associates of convicted former Illinois Gov. George Ryan said it didn't take much to get into the Residential Drug Abuse Treatment Program — as little as regularly consuming five alcoholic drinks a week before they had been incarcerated.
“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, Ryan's former chief of staff who cut his sentence by 8 months by completing the drug program at a federal prison in Yankton, S.D. “(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.” U.S. District Judge James Zagel agreed to recommend Blagojevich for the counseling program at a low-security prison in Littleton, Co., but the ultimate decision will be made by the U.S. Bureau of Prisons. Under federal guidelines, inmates must have “a verifiable substance-use disorder.” Federal prisons spokesman Chris Burke said, “We look for evidence that the inmate has a documented substance-abuse history before their arrest. If that is five drinks a week and there is something to verify that beyond that inmate's statement, that might qualify.”