Punish Executive Crooks Without Punishing Ourselves

In what is becoming common treatment of senior executives who abuse the public trust, the ex-Tyco leaders were given long prison sentences of 8-25 years. What is different about these convictions is that they are state cases, not federal, and because of the length of the sentences, prison time is likely to be served at the terrible Attica prison in western New York.

There is a tendency to relish the harsh punishment of arrogant leaders who have hurt many people financially; who thought they were above the law, and who had no regard for the damage they were causing others.

But as I have explained before, prisons should be used to punish violent and dangerous offenders, not people we dislike. There is a range of severe and appropriate punishments that do not use expensive prison space, and do not mix non-violent lawbreakers with murderers and other thugs.

Community-based punishments would be appropriate for the Tyco rascals. Sending them to a maximum-security prison is cruel and unusual punishment.

There a biblical sense of justice, however, that points to the need to be merciful, as God has been merciful to us, with an ironic twist not unlike a reverse reading of Matthew 18:21-32:

In perhaps the most dramatic moment of the hearing, [the prosecutor] read aloud from a letter [Tyco executive] Kozlowski had written in 1995 to a Houston judge overseeing the sentencing of a Tyco employee who had been convicted of stealing from the company; Mr. Kozlowski urged that a maximum sentence be imposed.

[The prosecutor] said of Mr. Kozlowski, “What the defendant said on that occasion applies on this occasion.”


–James Jewell


About Jim Jewell

I am a writer and consultant on faith and public life, active for many years in management and communications in the evangelical community. I now work as the director of the nonprofit practice at The Valcort Group (www.valcort.com). Everything on this blog, however, is my personal opinion and is not read or approved before it is posted. Opinions, conclusions and other information expressed here do not necessarily reflect the views of Valcort.
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