The other evening I was listening to the news while making
dinner, and they had a bit about Bernie Madoff, the man who is a
leading contender for Biggest Thief In The World, having stolen
some $50,000,000,000, much of it from charities and nonprofit
organizations. They mentioned that he was under "House Arrest";
not allowed to leave his $7.4 million condo, not even to go to
either of his mansions in the US, let alone the one in Europe.
I will assume that he will be found guilty, as there is no
possible doubt that what he did was illegal and that he knew it
was illegal. His lawyers will undoubtedly point out that this is
his first offense, and that while he stole a lot of money he did
it without violence, and most of the people managing the money he
stole had a really good time. They may well argue that he isn't a
threat to the community, and that it is a waste of prison space
to lock him up.
I think that for Bernie and others who commit or knowingly
benefit from "white collar" crimes or "non-violent" crimes like
fraud, embezzlement, etc, there should be a new punishment more
fitting the circumstances. I propose Street Arrest.
When Bernie is found guilty he should be given $50, and taken to
the Good Will or Salvation Army store. He can buy whatever he
wants with that money, but when he checks out he will be stripped
to his underwear, so clothes would be a good choice. Then he will
be fitted out with a locator anklet, and released to the street.
I am not suggesting anything Cruel and Unusual here. There is
clearly nothing cruel; taking away people's homes and making them
live on the street is just part of doing business. And how can it
be unusual when so many people who have had their life savings
destroyed wind up there?
I think Bernie should be on life-time parole, with nightly
check-in; each night at a different homeless shelter, heat grate,
or cardboard box. While clearly his current wealth should all go
to his victims, he should be allowed to earn as much by begging
and washing windshields as he can. I'd even say he should be
allowed to earn more by finding lost money. For every, say…,
million dollars of money that was "lost" that he finds and
reports to the regulators, Bernie would get to keep $20.
I know that Bernie has a tendency to not follow the rules too
closely, and he might be tempted to use some of that lost money
for himself. I would propose that any time he gets close to a
police officer the locator anklet alarms, and the officer
searches him. If Bernie is holding credit cards or suspiciously
large amounts of cash or anything else the officer doesn't think
it right, off he goes to jail, until it is sorted out. I think it
would be fair that while he is in jail his fellow inmates get to
help him find lost money, with them getting the reward.
I recognize that it can be lonely on the street, so I would
propose that Bernie' wife and sons, whose actions show that they
knew what was going on, be allowed to join him.
For ground breaking cases like Bernie and his family, I think a
web site and frequent pictures would help everyone stay informed
of how the experience affects them. I think it would help others
in the banking and financial sectors stay focused on the
importance things in life. And we would all be better for that.