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June 7, 2010

"Bernie Madoff, Free at Last"

The title of this post is the headline of this long new article in New York magazine about life in prison is like for everyone's favorite Ponzi-schemer scoundral. (Hat tip: The WSJ Blog.)  This piece looks very buzz-worthy, as its start highlights:

Last August, shortly after his arrival at the federal correctional complex in Butner, North Carolina, Bernard L. Madoff was waiting on the evening pill line for his blood-pressure medication when he heard another inmate call his name.  Madoff, then 71, author of the most devastating Ponzi scheme in history, was dressed like every other prisoner, in one of his three pairs of standard-issue khakis, his name and inmate number glued over the shirt pocket.  Rec time, the best part of a prisoner’s day, was drawing to a close, and Madoff, who liked to walk the gravel track, sometimes with Carmine Persico, the former mob boss, or Jonathan Pollard, the spy, had hurried to the infirmary, passing the solitary housing unit — the hole — ducking through the gym and the twelve-foot-high fence and turning in the direction of Maryland, the unit where child molesters are confined after they’ve served their sentences. As usual, the med line was long and moved slowly.  There were a hundred prisoners, some standing outside in the heat, waiting for one nurse.

Madoff was accustomed to hearing other inmates call his name. From July 14, the day he arrived, he’d been an object of fascination. Prisoners had assiduously followed his criminal career on the prison TVs.  “Hey, Bernie,” an inmate would yell to him admiringly while he was at his job sweeping up the cafeteria, “I seen you on TV.” In return, Madoff nodded and waved, smiling that sphinxlike half-smile. “What did he say?” Madoff sometimes asked.

But that evening an inmate badgered Madoff about the victims of his $65 billion scheme, and kept at it. According to K. C. White, a bank robber and prison artist who escorted a sick friend that evening, Madoff stopped smiling and got angry.  “Fuck my victims,” he said, loud enough for other inmates to hear.  “I carried them for twenty years, and now I’m doing 150 years.”

June 7, 2010 at 02:48 PM | Permalink


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And I guess the victims would reverse his line and have the last laugh....

Posted by: Abe | Jun 7, 2010 3:11:18 PM

Except for the people in third world countries who starved as a result of their sponsoring charity's money being bilked. They did not get a last anything, as they simply starved to death or died of preventable disease.

I gather Madoff wasn't thinking about them. Madoff deserves the needle.

Posted by: Res ipsa | Jun 7, 2010 4:58:21 PM

A few of our commenters have said that we should NEVER incarcerate non-violent, white collar criminals (or maybe non-violent criminals, period).

I swear, we're not hearing a peep from them just now.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jun 7, 2010 6:51:02 PM

Bill, after reading this article, I am not sure incarceration is the right kind of punishment for a Madoff. I might prefer seeing him having to clean toilets in Port authority 24/7 until he expires.

Posted by: Doug B. | Jun 7, 2010 9:02:49 PM

Can't let my silence imply agreement with an exaggerated characterization Bill has aimed at me more than once.

Of course Madoff belongs in jail for what he did, as do any number of first-offense, non-violent criminals whose acts were deliberate, clearly harmful to society (as opposed to merely criminalized) and profoundly damaging to their victims.

My continuing objection is to a system that's become so profoundly skewed in favor of a devastatingly powerful government that it's all but impossible to tell which defendants are being treated justly and which are being rolled.

Also troubling is the steady stream of vague, sweeping laws seemingly written more to ensure convictions than to set forth sensible rules for citizens to live by.

Foolish drug wars and over-criminalization burden the courts with more cases than they have resources to carefully address. So justice too often gets reduced to a heavily leveraged plea-bargain ritual in which only the foolhardy or filthy rich dare risk putting the government to the annoyance and inconvenience of a trial.

Then comes sentencing, imposed in an auction-like atmosphere...with vindictive calls for every harsher sentences.

"Did they say 10? He shouldn't do a day less than 20 years!"

"Twenty?! Are you going soft? He should get at least 30 years." ...and so on. Throwing around decades as if they were nothing. And it's all mostly arbitrary.

It's not that bad people don't belong in prison, Bill. It's that the system can no longer be trusted completely to tell the bad people from the good (or the harmless). It's that the justice system is too harsh, too hurried and simply not the fair fight America's lofty slogans suggest it ought to be.

Posted by: John K | Jun 8, 2010 12:31:55 PM

I too have nothing but loathe for this man. Bernie deserved his sentence. And if he ever gets to make another nickle (like selling his story, etc), the gov should step in and garnish anything he earns to pay back his debt. Just my 2 cents.

Posted by: mini trampoline | Jun 13, 2011 9:34:06 PM

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