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George Ryan reports to Wisconsin prison

George Ryan waves to reporters before leaving his home in Kankakee, Ill. Wednesday morning to drive to Wisconsin, to report to prison (photo from Chicago Tribune)

By AP/IL Public Radio


Oxford, Wis. – Former Illinois Gov. George Ryan arrived at a rural federal prison Wednesday to begin serving a 6 1/2-year sentence for corruption.

Ryan, 73, entered the federal correctional center at noon, going in through a back gate, Bureau of Prisons spokeswoman Felicia Ponce said.

He joined 206 other inmates at the minimum security camp about 60 miles north of Madison, said Mike Truman, a spokesman for the Federal Bureau of Prisons in Washington, D.C.

"The hardest adjustment for anybody, not just a 73-year-old, is the separation of the family. That is the toughest. You are basically told when to eat, when the lights go out," Truman said.

Ryan was convicted in April 2006 of steering big-money state contracts to friends, using state money and state workers to run his campaigns and killing an investigation of bribes paid for truck driver's licenses.

The former governor left his small-town home of Kankakee, Ill., for the 255-mile trip to the lockup early Wednesday morning. He waved to a horde of reporters but did not answer questions as he climbed into the front seat of a van, accompanied by his wife, Lura Lynn, and other family members.

Ryan, who gained international acclaim for his opposition to the death penalty, has said he will fight to clear his name even while sitting in prison.

"Tomorrow I embark on a new journey in my life," he said Tuesday night surrounded by family and friends. "I do so with a firm faith in God and the support and faith of my family."

Elected governor in 1998, Ryan was in office only a few weeks before the federal investigation became public. He served only one term.

Ryan had hoped to remain free on bond while he appealed his convictions to the U.S. Supreme Court. But the snowy haired, husky voiced father of six lost his final bid to delay his prison term Tuesday, when U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens turned down his request to remain free on bail.

Ryan's typical work day will begin at 7:30 a.m. and include duties such as mopping floors, cleaning toilets, raking leaves, cutting grass, painting and shoveling snow, Truman said.


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