Would State Prison Threat Deter Political Corruption?

Federal prison is not a deterrent to Illinois politicians. Might state incarceration work better?

It’s pretty obvious that the prospect of incarceration in Federal prisons isn’t enough to stop Illinois politicians from living up to the state’s reputation for being one of the most corrupt in the country.

Think of the nickname for the minimum security prison near the Wisconsin Dells:

Club Fed

True, former Governor Dan Walker was treated poorly by the warden at his Minnesota prison. He writes in his well-written book about the “Governor stick” that the Warden gave him. Walker’s job was to use the stick with a nail in its bottom to pick cigarette butts from the prison grounds.  That, plus cleaning bathrooms.

But, Walker was not convicted of official misconduct. He lost favor with the U.S. Attorney’s Office during the the savings and loan debacle. (He argues that he received the longest term of anyone convicted in the nationwide scandal, while having been involved in one of the smallest losses.)

Would George Ryan have been deterred from the illegalities for which he was convicted if he had known he might end up in a state prison?

How about Ron Blagojevich?

I am sure there are others, but the only politician I can recall spending time in a state pen is former Congressman Mel Reynolds.

It is blatantly obvious that most local State’s Attorney’s don’t want to take on their fellow politicians.  An exception is the current Cook County State’s Attorney, Anita Alvarez.

So, if State’s Attorney’s won’t prosecute their buddies, how about the U.S. Attorney asking that miscreants like Blagojevich be locked behind state prison doors?

I would suggest that a legislator would not have to have served on the Prison Reform Committee (which I did and which no longer exists) to know how bad prisoners can be treated.  Since lots of legislators now seek higher paying Chicago alderman and Cook County Board seats, the message would spread where it needs to.

And, such punishment would have a certain symmetry for Blagojevich:

  • elected by his peers
  • judged by his peers
  • punished with his peers

Just a modest proposal and not as bad as suggesting impoverished Irish in 1729 sell their children for food to rich ladies and gentlemen.

The Feds have put prisoners in the Illinois Department of Corrections and vice versa.

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