OXFORD, Wis. &

Former Illinois Gov. George Ryan arrived at a rural federal prison today to begin serving a 61/2-year sentence for corruption.




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




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 waiting for his departure and glanced overhead as he left 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," the 73-year-old 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."




Ryan was convicted in April 2006 of steering contracts, tax fraud, misuse of tax dollars and state workers, and killing a bribery investigation.




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.




He joined 206 other inmates at a minimum security camp at the federal prison near Oxford, said Mike Truman, a spokesman for the Federal Bureau of Prisons in Washington, D.C.




The camp is in a rural area about 60 miles north of Madison. It has four wings, each with 13 rooms that each house four inmates, much like a military barracks, Truman said.




The former governor was told to arrive empty-handd.




"He doesn't need anything," Truman said. Ryan will be fingerprinted, photographed and given prison garb &

a tan shirt and pants, white socks and steel-toed shoes.