CHICAGO — Former Illinois U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. entered a North Carolina prison Tuesday to begin serving a 2½-year term for illegally spending $750,000 in campaign money on everything from cigars to a gold watch – a day after he tried but failed to get into the federal complex.

In an odd twist to Jackson’s long-running legal saga, the 48-year-old had sought to enter the Butner Correctional Center on Monday but was turned away because of “a snafu,” C.K. Hoffler, an Atlanta-based attorney who had accompanied the Chicago Democrat, told reporters Tuesday evening.

“He was ready to pay his debt,” she said during a news conference in Atlanta about why the son of civil rights leader the Rev. Jesse Jackson chose to report days earlier than required. “The sooner he reported, the sooner he’d be able to get back home to his children to begin the process of healing.”

Jackson bid farewell to his wife, Sandi, and two children on Sunday in Washington, D.C., then went to the prison in a heavily wooded area 30 miles north of Raleigh Monday afternoon. But his attorney had to return hours later to pick up Jackson when prison officials called her and said an administrative obstacle would delay processing him, she said.