Criminal justice reform needs a true champion — not the unrepentant Blago

Blagojevich calls himself a “freed political prisoner.” That is an insult to all those prisoners he left behind.

SHARE Criminal justice reform needs a true champion — not the unrepentant Blago
Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich speaks to the media outside his home the day after he was freed from prison by President Donald Trump.

Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich speaks to the media outside his home the day after he was freed from prison by President Donald Trump.

Scott Olson/Getty Images

Rod Blagojevich has the right message, but he’s the wrong messenger.

“I’m going to fight against the corrupt criminal justice system that all too often persecutes and prosecutes people who did nothing wrong, who over-sentence people, show no mercy, and who are in positions that have no accountability,” the disgraced former Illinois governor told CBS 2 Tuesday night just after his release from a Colorado prison.

Blagojevich is right about the injustice of our criminal justice system. He’s just the wrong guy to fight it.

Blagojevich emerged from prison last week the same way he went in.Still the same shameless media addict, obsessed with the sound of his own voice.Still refusing to take responsibility for his crimes.

He’s still guilty of those crimes, which included trying to sell a U.S. Senate seat, extorting money from the CEO of a children’s hospital and lying to the FBI.

But now Blagojevich wants to pursue justice for other prisoners languishing in prisons around the nation.The morning after his release, he stepped onto the front porch of his Ravenswood home to rant over our “broken” and “corrupt” criminal justice system.

“Unfair, unfair and cruel over-sentencing is the rule,” he said. And many nonviolent offenders are hit with sentences that are “way longer” than those given to “violent offenders and sex offenders who actually caused great physical and emotional harm to their victims.”

Yes, there are people in prison for crimes they did not commit. And yes, many other people in prison are serving harsh penalties for minor, non-violent crimes.The vast majority of these inmates are people of color.

They need champions.They don’t need Blagojevich.

Blagojevich’s newest and dearest friend is not their friend.

After his release, Blagojevich proclaimed his “most profound and everlasting gratitude” to the man who set him free, President Trump.

A president who might be in prison himself, were he not shielded by the protections of his singular office.

Trump’s commutation spared Blagojevich another four years behind bars.It came despite the fact that his corruption convictions were upheld all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court.

So the former Democratic governor stood before a phalanx of cameras to lavish Trump with praise and declare himself a “Trumpocrat.”He blathered on about all the great things our impeached president is doing “to fix this broken and racist criminal justice system.”

Trump is no friend to people of color and the poor.While he cozies up to white supremacists, his racist rhetoric and draconian policies have demeaned, disrespected and oppressed them. But now Blagojevich is teaming up with Trump, allegedly to advocate for all those people Trump does not care about.

When Blagojevich left the governor’s office in 2009, he left behind “close to 3,000 clemency petitions,” according to his successor, Pat Quinn.

Quinn, as he told Block Club Chicago last week, had “piles of ignored clemency petitions” to contend with because of “Blagojevich’s failure to act.”

“I reviewed almost 5,000 clemency cases, and I granted clemency in about I think 37 or 38 percent,” Quinn said.“I can’t remember a clemency case where the petitioner was not contrite, apologetic, remorseful, sorry it happened.They understood that part of the process was admitting a mistake.”

Blagojevich will never do that.He is, he says, a “freed political prisoner.”

That is an insult to all those prisoners he left behind.They don’t need a venal, opportunistic and crooked former governor to champion their cause.

They need justice.

Send letters to: letters@suntimes.com.

The Latest
The 59-year-old retired officer, hit in the arm and abdomen, was taken in good condition to Mount Sinai Medical Center, according to police.
Born in 1950 in Worcestershire, England, Evans studied law at Oxford University and worked as a journalist in the 1970s.
An estimated 1,000 families remain separated under the shameful policy of the previous administration. The Family Reunification Task Force must keep its foot on the gas.
Weigel Broadcasting announced Monday that it will take over production of the Illinois High School Association’s football and basketball state finals television broadcasts.
Coming on the heels of his sentencing in New York, the trial marks a new low for Kelly, whose popularity had remained undiminished even after he was indicted in 2002. That shifted sharply after the 2019 airing of the docuseries “Surviving R. Kelly.”