CBC Members React as Jesse Jackson Jr. Gets Out of Prison

Lauren Victoria Burke
Former Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. leaves the federal court house after being sentenced to prison Aug. 14, 2013, in Washington, D.C. Jackson was sentenced to 30 months in prison for using $750,000 in campaign money to pay for living expenses and luxury items.
Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Today, former Illinois Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. is scheduled to leave an Alabama federal prison after serving time for misusing $750,000 in campaign funds for personal use.

The 50-year-old former congressman and son of the Rev. Jesse Jackson received a sentence of 30 months in prison in 2013. Jackson Jr.’s sentence was shortened by three months because he completed a substance-abuse program, and after serving 17 months, he is expected to be released to house arrest until Sept. 20. Members of Congress who visited Jackson in prison commented on his pending release. 


"I took him to prison the first day," Congressional Black Caucus Chairman G.K. Butterfield (D-N.C.) told The Root. That day, Oct. 26, 2013, Butterfield went with Jackson to report to the Federal Correctional Complex in Butner, N.C., located in Butterfield's district. Jackson was later transferred to the federal prison camp at Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, Ala., amid rumors that Jackson was assisting fellow inmates on legal matters.

Now, 516 days later, Jackson is set to leave.

"Jesse has been a very intelligent community leader who made a mistake along the way," Butterfield said as he walked from his office on Capitol Hill to the House floor for votes. The CBC chair was positive about Jackson's future.

"He has paid his dues to society and is now re-entering. I have every reason to believe he is going to be a contributor—not just of the African-American community—but to the interests of all minorities," Butterfield said.

Though there are currently no indications that Jackson plans to run for office again, The Root asked Butterfield: Does he think Jesse Jr. will run again?  


"I hadn't thought about it. I hadn't thought it through that far, wow," Butterfield answered.

Rep. Robin Kelly (D-Ill.), who now holds Jackson's former seat, is said to be interested in running for the U.S. Senate. The move could leave Jackson’s old House seat open in 2016.  


Several members of Congress, including Reps. Corrine Brown (D-Fla.), Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.) and former Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-R.I.), visited Jackson over the past year.

"I met and went to see him several times," Brown told The Root Wednesday as she left the weekly CBC meeting on Capitol Hill.


"Jesse Jackson Jr. was one of the smartest members of Congress. I think he's going to be a success no matter what he does in the next phase of his life," said Cleaver, who last visited Jackson at the Birmingham prison three weeks ago.  

"Those of us who care about him are going to continue to care about him and support him. Seriously, I think in a couple of years we're going to be reading about Jesse and talking about his meteoric rise again," Cleaver added.  


Cleaver also pointed out that it was Jackson who pushed for a plaque to be added to the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center commemorating the lives of slaves who built the Capitol, but he was unable to attend the ceremony because he was in prison.

Jackson's wife, Sandi, is expected to begin serving a year in prison in September for filing false tax returns in connection with the misuse of the campaign money. She is scheduled to be released in 2016.


Lauren Victoria Burke is a Washington, D.C.-based political reporter who writes the Crew of 42 blog. She appears regularly on NewsOne Now with Roland Martin on TV One. Follow her on Twitter

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