I was channel surfing this evening, and I spent a few minutes watching some documentary about Bernie Madoff. It covered his life of crime and now his first few years in prison. While in the middle of telling the story about the jail house fight he was supposedly in, it cut to one of his victims who said that she didn’t want to see him hurt in prison, she wanted him to spend the rest of his life in good health sitting in a cell “to think about what he did.”
I hear that canard a lot when it comes to murderers and rapists. The families of the victims will tell the media that they want the convicted party to spend a lifetime or a very long time in prison (as the case may be), in order to “think about what he did.” Sometimes, the relatives of a murder victim will want the convict to get life in prison instead of the death penalty so he can spend the rest of his life “thinking about what he did.”
First off, why are the only criminal convicts who have this duty to “think about what they did” for many decades to come are murderers, rapists and high profile white collar criminals? I’ve never heard it asked of someone caught with several grams of crack who will spend the next two years in a state pen, or the armed robber doing ten, to “think about what he did.”
Second, what is so complicated and nuanced about any crime, much less murder, rape or Madoffism, that convicts have to spend decades thinking about it? Seems to me that most criminals who are honest with themselves can cite their motivation for doing what they did in five seconds. Heck, the Catholic Church has condensed the motivation for human sin into seven words, almost all blue or white collar crimes fit into at least one of these categories. It’s not as if these things are as intellectually convoluted and time consuming as a major longitudinal study on youth and adolescence, or string theory.
Hint: Bernie Madoff was greedy. That takes care of him thinking about what he did.