Word has it that disgraced but nicely coiffed former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich would like to complete his prison sentence at FCI Englewood, a facility Forbes called one of the best places to serve time a few years back.
But ask about its reputation as a country club prison and facility public information officer John Sell bristles.
"I would not call this a country club," Sell says. "As an organization, we're kind of concerned about the perception of inmates having inappropriate comforts."
That's certainly FCI Englewood's reputation, despite the joint having been the home of Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh during his '90s-era trial in Denver. Forbes notes that prisoners "can blow off steam by playing pool, ping-pong or even foosball." And the list of items available for inmate purchase, on view below -- along with the extensive prison handbook -- is certainly extensive. Residents can buy a wide variety of foods, many of them listed by their brand names (Cinnamon Graham cereal, Milky Way candy bars), plus clothing and hygiene items ranging from safety scissors and toenail clippers to a ponytail holder.
So that if Blago wants to grow out his famous locks, he'll be able to keep them under control when they start to spill down his shoulders.
Sounds extravagant -- but Sell stresses that these commissary options are "pretty typical" of what's available at low-security prisons around the country, and so are the recreation options.
If that's the case, why does he think FCI Englewood is the sort of place where current inmates like ex-Enron executive Jeff Skilling would like to pay their debt to society?
"Maybe it's the location," he speculates. "It's in Denver, near the Rocky Mountains, with nice scenery. And it's a low-level institution with nonviolent offenders."
At the same time, he emphasizes that a prison jolt shouldn't be looked upon as an extended vacation.
"Sentenced inmates here at the Federal Correctional Institution have to work," he notes. "They must have a job unless there is a medical or security reason why they're unable to do so. And we're basically a small city, so they're assigned institutional jobs serving those labor needs. They can be food service workers, orderlies keeping housing units and other areas clean, plumbers, painters, groundskeepers. And they're going to be busy while they're here. They have a very regimented day.
"We get them up about six in the morning," he continues. "Breakfast is at 6:15, and at seven, they're going to work. They work from seven to 10:30, and then go to lunch -- and around noon, they're back to work again until approximately 3:30. They have dinner about 4:45, and then they're allowed leisure time, recreation activities or the library, until around eight." At that point, they're required back at their housing unit, with lights out around 11 p.m.
In addition, FCI Englewood "provides correctional programs and activities to teach inmates to use their time constructively. And we give them incentives to develop personal responsibility, and teach them consequences for their behavior."
In the end, though, even Sell stops short of painting FCI Englewood as the Alcatraz of Colorado. As he acknowledges, "It's a pretty easy place to do your time, to be honest with you."
Hope to see you soon, Blago. In the meantime, check out the FCI Englewood commissary list and handbook below.
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