For bribing an official to rig her daughter’s SAT score, the actor, Felicity Huffman, received 14 days in prison, a $30K fine, 250 hours of community service and one-year probation. A lot of people felt outraged by her sentence and believed if she were not a wealthy celebrity, she would have received a much stiffer penalty. There is little doubt this is true; few would argue our legal system is biased toward the rich and well connected. But I don’t think the solution is longer jail terms for more people. I believe in the exact opposite. The United States imprisons more people per capita, than any other developed nation in the world – more than Russia or China. The fact that we have legalized the privatization of prisons, has only made the problem worse. Can you believe that in the U.S., there are people getting rich by the imprisonment of others? Make no mistake, these people are pouring big money into lobbying lawmakers to increase the frequency and severity of jail sentences around the country – so they can make more money! Its pretty disgusting.
No, I don’t wish Felicity Huffman more prison time; I wish we would put far less people in jail. Jailing people for most non-violent crimes is morally wrong. It destroys lives and is a huge financial burden on families AND our country. I’m not even going to get into the issue on how our system is biased against minorities – the facts on that are beyond appalling. Rather than having to pay a $30,000 fine, somebody of Huffman’s wealth should have received a felony conviction and paid a $2 million fine. If you really want a deterrent to non-violent crimes, we should fine people based on their income or wealth as they do in some European countries. Steve Jobs once boasted that he routinely parked in handicap spots. It was worth it for him to pay the fine for the convenience. Job’s might have followed the law like the rest of us, if his fine were – let’s say – $1Million.
Huffman and the other wealthy individuals who were busted on the college admission scandal, live their lives with impunity, because the rules that most of us have to live by, don’t apply to them. And if they do get caught, their penalties are pretty meager. Judges should be able to impose penalties that truly deter illegal behavior, and once again…we need to stop throwing so many poor people in prison.