Dealing with White Collar Crime

I’m glad to see that people who have committed fraud are convicted. Such things should happen for free. Newsweek (via MSNBC) interviews Allan Sloan, editor of the Wall Street Journal on why the government succeeded in this case. I think he has some good points. Some of the accounting material in this case, and the rules and methods of investment are so complex that it is doubtful you could find a jury that would understand. (I would note, a bit off-topic, that I think this brings up a 21st century problem with the concept of “jury of one’s peers.” Peers of whom? Could we get a jury of accountants or business managers to hear a case like this? I think the idea of either an expert or “qualified” jury might have some merit.)

But my concern is with the penalties for white collar crime. We’re likely to send these guys to jail, probably at some low to medium security facility, and not only will we have the expense of what they did to the country, we’re going to have to care for them for a long time. I think we should examine the penalties for non-violent crime in general. Technology is such that people can be monitored inside society. Prison was, at one time, a more humane option for punishment than certain corporal punishments. I think we need to ask just what it is accomplishing at this point.

I’m not talking about letting white collar criminals off. I would suggest that there might be a way to monitor them in society, allow them to make an income at a job that is monitored, and require some additional financial penalty, proportionate to what they did. If they can’t pay that off in their lifetime, so be it.

This is just an embryo of an idea, but I think it should be considered. Along with finding a way to get out of the failed drug war, this would be an excellent way to reduce the prison population, thus reducing expenditure, and at the same time find a profitable way to harness this class of criminals. Perhaps the time has come to seriously reconsider the prison system.

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