There are three things former Virginia governor Bob McDonnell is most likely wishing for: A glowing letter of recommendation, the lucky push of a button and an 11th-hour phone call.

On Feb. 9, McDonnell will begin serving a two-year sentence for public corruption. That leaves the ex-governor with little more than a month to get his affairs in order.

What is the first order of business? According to attorney Alan Ellis, who specializes in federal sentencing, McDonnell’s legal team should ask the judge in his case to recommend a particular prison camp, most likely the Federal Correctional Institute in Cumberland, Md. Though not required, those recommendations can go a long way with the Bureau of Prisons’ (BOP) Designation and Sentence Computation Center, which electronically processes all incoming inmates and assigns placement.

“They push a button, see the recommended facility, and if there’s room at the inn, then that’s where he’ll go,” explained Ellis, whose directory of federal prisons “The Federal Prison Guidebook” is considered “the Bible” of prison placement.

The BOP’s normal policy is to place inmates in a qualifying prison within 500 miles of their home, but McDonnell’s high profile might affect where he ends up.

“Because this case is political, all bets are off,” said Ellis. “He won’t be treated like your typical offender.” Jailed ex-Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich is serving his 14-year sentence about 1,000 miles away from home in Colorado.

But there are also perks to being a former politico. The BOP could get a call — or 400 — from “someone high up,” said Ellis, that could sway his placement assignment. “That would not be uncommon at all,” he added.

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