Close Prison Camps

By · Thursday, March 19th, 2009

Bernard Madoff appeared in a Manhattan courtroom and plead guilty to numerous federal crimes. He admitted to orchestrating a Ponzi scheme that swindled victims of more than $50 billion. Jesus Rosales, a criminal justice student, has asked a question that causes me to consider an appropriate sanction for white-collar ciminals. The Madoff case presents an extreme example of a white-collar criminal.

In a previous article I wrote that prison camps waste taxpayer resources. I’ve been confined to various prison camps since 2003. No physical boundaries prevent prisoners in camp from walking away. Since camp prisoners serve time according to an honor system, and administrators have classified camp prisoners as not posing a threat to society, I argued that prison camps ought to close and those assigned to camps ought to serve community-based sanctions. Jesus observed that most white-collar offenders who were sentenced to prison served their terms in prison camps. He asked how I thought society should punish white-collar criminals if camps were shut down.

The Pew Report documents the billions of dollars taxpayers spend to fund America’s prison system. That report showed that $9 of every $10 spent on corrections goes to fund prisons. Community confinement centers, on the other hand, cost taxpayers far less to operate. Such sanctions may present opportunities for offenders to pay their own costs of supervision. Yet not all offenders would be appropriate for such diversions or alternatives to incarceration.

I am of the opinion that citizens ought to measure justice by an offender’s efforts at reconciling with society. Those citizens who evaluate an offender should take into consideration much more than calendar pages that turn. An enlightened society such as ours has many options. Though as Justice Kennedy said in his speech to the American Bar Association, we incarcerate far too many people, and our prisoners serve for too long.

An offender like Madoff, who bilked billions, and who was more concerned about his own affairs than the interests of his victims or reconciling with society ought to face imprisonment. In some cases, society may deem it just to keep a criminal like Madoff in prison for life. Since he is 70 already, that may not be much longer.

Whether an offender is convicted of a white collar crime or another type of crime, I believe society would reap more rewards from its criminal justice system if it offered offenders mechanisms through which they could work to redeem themselves and earn gradual increases in freedom. Once they earn minimum-security status, however, they ought to release to a community-based sanction. Camps waste taxpayer resources.

Be Sociable, Share!

Comments are closed.