Sunday, July 10, 2005
The sentencing of Bernard Ebbers is set for this coming Wed. and many are speculating - how long- his sentence will be. After hearing the sentences of John Rigas (15 years and 80 years old), Timothy Rigas his son (20 years), Jamie Olis (24 years), one can only imagine how ridiculously high this upcoming sentence might be. CNN has a wonderful article here that compares these sentences with those given to white collar offenders years back. A big difference is noted in the increased sentences experienced by individuals today. Co-blogger Peter Henning notes in this article the change in white collar sentences stating that "'Olis probably would not have been prosecuted or, if he had been, received probation "or a very short sentence in a halfway house'" if this were "twenty years ago."
Are the increased sentences the correct move? Sentencing serves several purposes - deterrence (general and specific), retribution, and rehabilitation. One aspect not noted in this article is that not one of the offenders who received the "lighter" sentences of years past committed another crime. If punishment is to deter others it isn't working as we still have many white collar offenders. If the sentence is to deter the specific offender, the long punishments were not needed as the offenders were not committing second offenses. And if for retribution, sorry, but wasting taxpayer dollars locking up these people is not the answer. Make them pay back those who lost money as a result of their crimes and make them work for society using their business skills to help society for the wrongs committed. But locking them up serves no purpose other than for politicians in Congress to be able to say to their constituents that they are tough on crime.
And some politicians may be crossing the line and trying to influence the judges. I keep wondering if perhaps someone should be investigating this conduct. Rep. James Sensenbrenner did what? That's outrageous!!!! See here.
Addendum - See the thoughtful comments of Professor Doug Berman here. See also Berman's entry here where he notesDr. Paul Leighton's comments. Professor Berman states "These commentaries, while noting we are getting tougher on corporate crime, explore whether the sentences consistent with sentences for non-violent street crimes and whether they make sense in light of the social harm done."