Yep, as we suspected, Bernie Ebbers got convicted today--on all nine counts.
Ouch. He's gonna spend a long time in prison. Now as always I feel awful about people loosing their lives to a prison sentence, and of course I feel terrible for the spouses parents and kids of those doing time. But it just might be time here for me to tip my hand just a bit...
The thing is, white collar criminals are the only rational actors in the system. And as a consequence, they are the only ones who respond to deterrents. As any public defender knows (help me out here guys) our clients aren't ever thinking about results. Their crimes--whether robbing someone to get high, beating or shooting someone in a fight or fit of rage, or stealing because they're hungry--are all about hunger and fear and addiction and need. Our kids are never thinking "Hmmm...what can this get me..." It's just not how it works. Whether the penalty is 2 years or 200 years, our clients by and large don't respond to deterrents. This is one of the huge problems with our system of criminal justice. Policy makers don't understand poverty and desperation and fail to grasp that all their 'tough on crime' posturing is utterly for naught.
But Ebbers, and the other guys in the boardroom...they actually are rational actors, and they do respond to deterrents.
So what do you do? Do you max the guy?
I don't think so.
Take all his money--give it to the shareholders he fleeced and give 100 million or so to an anti-poverty program.
Give him 8 or 10 years--maybe less. But mandate that he, as well as every other white collar criminal go to at least a medium or potentially even a maximum security facility for the first 500 days.
And when it's over? 7500 hours of community serice in any industry he likes--only his income is capped at 75,000 dollars until he's done.
Post your proposed sentences in the comment section below...