One of Illinois’ leaders in the field of substance abuse treatment says it’s too early to criticize – or, for that matter, to praise – former Gov. Rod Blagojevich for trying to get into a substance abuse treatment program as part of his prison sentence. Sara Moscato Howe, chief of the Illinois Alcoholism and Drug Dependence Association, says enough of a vetting process is in place to assure Blagojevich won’t get into the program simply because his lawyers asked for it.
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Some news reports suggest the substance abuse claim is a common tactic by white-collar criminals to get an easier time in federal prison. However, the irony of Blagojevich saying he is an addict – after cutting money for programs Howe’s constituents provide – is not lost on her: “People were unable to get the treatment they needed, mothers and children that didn’t get the recovery home (or) halfway house support they needed,” Howe says, detailing those whose lives were thrown into chaos before the General Assembly and governor restored the $55 million, “people that weren’t able to go into detox and wound up in the health care system; oftentimes we would see them in the emergency departments, and, inevitably, some of them wound up in the criminal justice system, in our county jails.” The judge granted the lawyers’ request to recommend both the substance abuse program and the Littleton, Colo., location to the Federal Bureau of Prisons, though that recommendation is non-binding.