Prison system needs to realign its priorities
Issue date: 8/6/10 Section: Ed-Op
According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the U.S. spent about $68.7 billion on the correctional system in 2006. As a government service, this is financed by the taxpayers. The prison system should do what it was meant to do - keep dangerous people off of the streets. Unfortunately, it has become a place where high-profile individuals are sent to prove a point.
Bernard Madoff is a former stock broker that is currently in the Federal Correctional Institution in Butner, N.C. He created Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC, which would go on to commit one of the largest Ponzi schemes in history. Madoff was convicted of federal charges in 2009 and is serving a 150-year sentence.
What Madoff did was wrong and illegal. He fraudulently manipulated investors' money in order to profit himself. He committed offenses from securities fraud to money laundering to perjury. It is understandable that the legal system wants to make an example out of him to deter this from happening in the future. But is Madoff a dangerous criminal that needs to be behind bars to keep the public safe?
The argument here seems to be that lethal injection is too harsh, yet house arrest would be a vacation for most (his Long Island beach house sold for more than $8.75 million). There does not seem to be any other alternative at the moment besides prison. Although I don't believe prison is entirely justified, I'll accept it because of the magnitude of the crimes he committed and the large numbers of people that were affected. But what about an act that does not cause others direct harm?
Anthony Graber recently made the news for his involvement with the law. He was pulled over for speeding his motorcycle on I-95 at about 80 mph. Graber was wearing a helmet camera and captured the police officer stopping him. He later uploaded the video to YouTube.
While Graber's reckless driving merited a speeding ticket, his videotaping earned him a possible 16-year prison stay. He had allegedly violated state wiretap laws by videotaping the officer without his consent. Do police officers, who are public servants that are constantly being recorded by their dashboard cameras, have any right to privacy in a police stop?
This dispute may be important, but it does not interfere with the fact that Graber may be incarcerated in an effort to keep the public safe from him. The other motive seems to be for law enforcement agencies to show others what will happen if they decide to capture officers on camera.
Madoff has already been indicted, and Graber may soon follow suit; the question as to whether or not Graber's videotaping deserves incarceration is another matter. According to the International Centre for Prison Studies at King's College in London, the United Stated has the highest number of people locked behind bars per capita. This is a growing trend. The prison system may soon become too large of a burden if it continues to hold people that have not committed violent crimes.
Roberto Salome is a pre-junior majoring in computer engineering. He can be reached at email@example.com.
August 08, 2010:
It was originally stated that Bernard Madoff was being held in the Federal Correctional Institution of Ottisville, Calif. Madoff was sentenced to the Federal Correctional Institution in Ottiscville, N.Y. and then transferred to the Federal Correctional Institution in Butner, N.C.
The article reflects the above corrections.