Sunday, March 21, 2010

White Collar Criminals in Prison

The sentences that white collar offenders receive are getting higher.  Charles Ponzi received five years for the scheme that serves as the name for later Ponzi schemes.  Bernie Madoff, convicted of one of these later schemes received 150 years. The higher sentence has triggered a more secure prison facility and Bernie Madoff was placed in a medium security prison.  Dionne Searcey and Amir Efrati of the Wall Street Journal have an article titled "Madoff Beaten in Prison - Ponzi Schemer Was Assaulted by Another Inmate in December; Officials Deny Incident." Perhaps some victims of Madoff are elated to hear about an assault on Madoff, and are perhaps saying - he deserved it. And certainly we don't know whether there is truth to this reported incident.  But irrespective of this, it does present an interesting issue. Should the sentence length govern the prison location to the extent that a non-violent offender is placed in a medium security prison? 

Attorney Alan Ellis, an expert in this area notes:

"The BOP has a security designation  factor called :PUBLIC  SAFETY FACTORS (PSFs) . One is SENTENCE LENGTH. If an inmate has more than 10 years to serve, he is ineligible for a camp (MINIMUM);  more than 20 years -to serve - ineligible for a LOW; more than 30 to serve -ineligible for MEDIUM. When the inmate reaches this time left to be served point, he can be transferred the next lowest facility. This PSF can be waived on over ridden "trumped" by a Management Variable  called LESSER SECURITY. This is what allowed Madoff to be designated to FCI Butner on his 150 sentence rather than a HIGH - U.S. Penitentiary The same might be applied for a youthful first offender who gets a long sentence , e.g. a 19 year old bank robber who gets a 20+ year sentence."

As we move to more individualized sentencing in a post-Booker world, perhaps we also need to move to more individualized prison placements. After all do we really want to spend dollars on placing a white collar offender in a prison facility that requires more security than needed to keep the individual there.

(esp)(blogging from New York)

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Part of a prison sentence is rehabilitation, not just warehousing. 95% of inmates are ultimately released. If rehabilitation is a goal than a sentence should also be based upon age and length of prison time, not just security risk. We must be able to differentiate offenders in their risk to reoffend and then match their risk to level of service. A Madoff who is older and with a lengthy sentence should be sent to a Max without any programming since none will be of any rehabilative affect. And, the harsh placement can be used as teaching interventions to stop others from reoffending.

Posted by: moshe | Mar 22, 2010 6:49:58 PM

I don't know, who am I to argue with a BOP security designation? BOP officials are more experienced and knowledgeable in housing prisoners, so why not defer to their expertise? I would consider white collar criminals to be more intelligent and more devious than most of their "crime of passion" or mentally-ill violent counterparts. Perhaps a higher security designation is warranted.

Plus, do I really care? White collar criminals are at the bottom of my sympathy scale. Like they say, "if you can't do the time, don't do the crime".

Posted by: Guzzo | Mar 22, 2010 8:35:33 PM

White Collar Crime, Blue Collar Time

Posted by: justice | Apr 5, 2010 6:09:10 PM

I don't agree with the sentence length governing the security. Andrew Fastow of the Enron scandal committed a similar type of white collar crime and is serving his 10 yrs as ADX while Madoff have his 150 elsewhere. These guys may not have physically harmed persons or property, they have sent millions of people including the world economy into financial ruins. If we tallied up all suicides that have occurred from these people losing their entire life savings, homes, cars, etc. I'm sure we can hold them accountable for max security!

Posted by: Michelle | Aug 30, 2010 2:31:09 AM

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