Kennedy: Jesse Jackson Jr. leaving prison for Washington, DC, halfway house on Thursday

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PROVIDENCE, Rhode Island — Former U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. will be released from a federal prison on Thursday and will serve out the remainder of his term in a Washington, D.C., halfway house, former U.S. Rep. Patrick Kennedy told The Associated Press after visiting Jackson.

Kennedy said he spoke with Jackson at the minimum security federal prison camp in Montgomery, Alabama, where the son of the civil rights leader has been serving a 2 ½-year sentence after pleading guilty to illegally spending $750,000 in campaign funds on personal items.

Jackson, an Illinois Democrat, began the sentence on Nov. 1, 2013. The U.S. Bureau of Prisons lists his release date as Sept. 20, 2015.

Kennedy said he was in the area giving a speech on children's mental health and decided to visit Jackson on Monday.

"You can imagine my surprise when I'm there, and I'm talking to him, and he says, 'I'm leaving Thursday morning,'" Kennedy told the AP.

The Rhode Island Democrat said Jackson, 50, told him he would be picked up from prison by his wife, Sandra; his two children, Jessica and Jesse III; his father, the Rev. Jesse Jackson; and his mother, Jacqueline Jackson. His family will then take him to the halfway house.

"He said he'd have to report with his probation officer and he'd have to get some kind of job and start to put his life back together," Kennedy said.

Kennedy said he had not seen Jackson since August 2012, when he visited him at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota after Jackson took a leave from Congress and checked himself in for bipolar disorder. Kennedy has been an outspoken advocate on mental health issues. The two men served as Democrats in Congress together, and both have famous fathers. Kennedy's father was the late Sen. Edward Kennedy.

Bureau of Prisons spokesman Edmond Ross said he could not confirm that Jackson would be released to a halfway house, saying the bureau does not consider such plans public information.

The Rev. Jesse Jackson directed inquiries to the Bureau of Prisons. He confirmed that Kennedy had met with his son. Messages left for attorneys for Jackson Jr. weren't returned.

Kennedy said Jackson's mental health is much better than the last time he saw him at the Mayo Clinic. Kennedy said Jackson had even put a positive spin on his time in prison, saying it had allowed him to "unplug" from the world.

"He's a lot more at ease with his role and responsibility with what got him into jail," Kennedy said. He added that Jackson "feels he's done his time."

Kennedy said they also talked about what's next.

"He's also very excited about what lies ahead for him in the future, which I think is very hopeful," he said.

Jackson's wife was given a yearlong sentence for filing false tax returns related to her husband's spending. In a concession to their school-age children, the judge allowed the Jacksons to stagger their prison terms, with him serving his sentence first.


Associated Press writer Michael Tarm in Chicago contributed to this report.

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