U.S. Rep. Danny Davis, D-Ill., wants Congress to give federal inmates a chance to shorten their sentences — and thinks imprisoned former Gov. Rod Blagojevich who is serving 14 years in prison should qualify.
“I do. Because much of what he was sentenced for were conversations about acts,” Davis told the Sun-Times on Monday. “Gov. Blagojevich had a great proclivity to express himself. Some of the things he expressed himself about doing, never happened.”
Davis said he was working with U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, on a “good time” effort, which would allow more opportunities for federal inmates to shave time off their sentences. Unlike state systems, federal guidelines are fairly strict, meaning most inmates must serve 85 percent of their sentence with little wiggle room. Davis said the possible legislation is designed to create more overall fairness as part of a larger debate over those serving mandatory minimum sentences, as well as showing compassion to elderly inmates or disabled inmates.
Blagojevich is serving out his 14-year term in a Colorado federal prison. His case is under appeal and a three-judge panel is deciding whether to overturn any of the counts against Blagojevich.
“They now have to serve 85 percent of their time. There are right now individuals languishing in federal prison who have gotten too old to do anybody any harm. There are people who need something called compassionate release,” Davis said in remarks before the City Club of Chicago. “I’m looking forward to working with the Senate, quite frankly I’m working with them right now. I think we have reason to believe we’ll ultimately get it done.”
Davis later explained some provisions allowing federal inmates to reduce their sentences include taking classes and “being a model inmate.”
Davis noted that Blagojevich, who was convicted in a corruption case in 2010, including for trying to sell the U.S. senate seat once belonging to President Barack Obama, had offered Davis a U.S. senate appointment. Davis rejected the offer, which came after Blagojevich’s 2008 arrest.
“Knowing how people felt about him, I declined the appointment and said, ‘No Mr. Governor, can’t do it because I think the perception is so great in terms of how you have handled your office that a person would have a hard time getting elected,’” Davis said. “Although it would have been great to be a United States senator. Oh my God, it would have been wonderful.”