Thursday, March 12, 2009

Bernie Madoff should go free....sort of

Today Bernie Madoff pleaded guilty to the biggest swindle in history, over 50 BBBBillion dollars he stole by fraud from investors. He is expected to receive a jail sentence which will keep him in jail for his life. He has tried to hide the $$ by giving his wife 70 million and others in his family. But I am against his imprisonment, and here is why.

The United States puts more people in jail than any other nation, even if we measure by per capita. The United States comes in first from the prison studies center, the one ranked in order of the incarceration rates. We has 751 people in prison or jail for every 100,000 in population. (If you count only adults, one in 100 Americans is locked up.)

The only other major industrialized nation that even comes close is Russia, with 627 prisoners for every 100,000 people. The others have much lower rates. England's rate is 151; Germany's is 88; and Japan's is 63.

The median among all nations is about 125, roughly a sixth of the American rate.

We can start to change this in 2 ways:
1. People of color share a disproportionate number of people in prison. The answer lies in improving services in our inner cities, as well as a long range program of supporting youth.
2. We can stop incarcerating people convicted of non-violent crimes.

To do #2, we must substantially increase the penalties for non-violent crime. We must raise the fines, and increase community service.

For example, bernie Madoff plead guilty to fraud of 50 Billion dollars. Therefore his fine should be the surrender of ALL of his assets, including his houses, his gold cufflinks, the shirt he is wearing, and every off shore and US bank account that he owns. These $$ would be distributed to the people he defrauded. In addition, he should be sentenced to serve the rest of his life in community service, at an AIDS hospice, or a food bank. He can work 12 hours per day, and spend the rest of the time on house arrest with an ankle monitoring device.

For lesser crimes. like embezzlement of $5000, the fine would be 3 times the amount plus interest, and community service of an appropriate length.

In this way we could reduce our prison population, and increase funds for education and health care. The risk of losing such large amounts in fines and community service would be a sufficient deterrent.

I don't like what Bernie Madoff did, but the madness of our prison system must end.

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