At age 71, Bernie Madoff, perhaps the biggest swindler in history, does not pose much of a physical threat to anyone. Nonetheless, it is appropriate that he will spend the rest of his life behind bars.
A federal judge rejected his plea for leniency last week, sentencing him to the maximum 150 years in prison. With no parole in federal prison, the sentence ensures that he will leave prison only in a casket.
The sentence reflects a growing tendency over the past decade to give long prison sentences to white-collar criminals. But nothing to date comes close to the time given Madoff.
The 150-year sentence is comparable only to those given to terrorists, traitors and the most violent criminals.
Some would argue that our prisons are full enough already without having to house one more elderly white-collar criminal who no longer is dangerous. But sequestering Madoff from society is only one aspect of the sentence.
Madoff's crime was appropriately described by the judge as "extraordinarily evil." He defrauded hundreds of investors of at least $13 billion, demolishing the life savings of thousands of people, wrecking charities and, ultimately, diminishing the confidence in the U.S. financial system.
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