According to numerous reports, disgraced financier Bernie Madoff is happier in prison than he has been at any other time in the last 20 years. Madoff told ABC anchor Barbara Walters, "I feel safer (in prison) than outside. I have people to talk to, no decisions to make. I know I will die in prison. I lived the last 20 years of my life in fear. Now, I have no fear because I'm no longer in control."
Madoff went one step further to say that he "loves" prison. In his correspondence with his daughter-in-law Stephanie Madoff Mack for her recently released book "The End of Normal," he compared prison to a "college campus" where he had plenty of time to pump iron or participate in other recreational activities. Most of all, Madoff appreciated that other inmates treated him with "respect and admiration."
As for his victims, Madoff has little concern. That would include his son Mark (husband of author Madoff Mack) who committed suicide rather than face the disgrace that surrounded him. Also, in a less public but more tragic suicide, William Foxton shot himself in the head after losing his life savings of nearly $1 million. Foxton was a British soldier who served in the French Foreign Legion and lost his his arm in combat.
Madoff's wife, Ruth, also has a new book out, "Truth and Consequences," in which she steadfastly denies any involvement in or awareness of her husband's massive fraud.
In her "60 Minutes" appearance, Ruth Madoff told Morley Safer that Bernie and she had attempted suicide. But experts don't believe her. Psychologist Judy Kuriansky speculated that Ruth's confessions are an attempt to gain sympathy and hype book sales. Kuriansky added, brutally: "People who are smart enough to con millions of colleagues out of so much money ... are smart enough to know how many sleeping pills to take to ensure not waking up." As one critic wrote after hearing Ruth, "The Madoffs Failed to Commit Suicide, Unfortunately."
Madoff's victims — and everyone else, for that matter — should be spared the the couple's pontificating. But since the media can't get enough of a story this juicy, the disgraceful couple is frequently featured during primetime.
The big mistake was to put Madoff in jail. Madoff is housed in North Carolina's medium-security Butner Correctional Facility where the prison guidelines allow him to live with other inmates in dormitory-style housing, receive visitors several times a week , watch television or visit the gym.
Even though some of Madoff's cellmates are drug dealers, gang members and even the infamous Omar Abdel-Rahman, the so called "Blind Sheik" convicted of seditious conspiracy, his surroundings are too good for him.
If I were the judge, I would have sentenced Madoff to work a minimum wage job, punch a clock and, just like most Americans, live within his salary. For example, I'd assign Madoff to work as a night shift custodian where he would earn about $300 weekly. Out of his earnings, Madoff would have to pay for his room, board, transportation and sundries. Madoff would remain under federal supervision 24 hours a day.
Once a prisoner masters the system, life can be easy. But grinding it out every day on a meager income would be a true punishment for a man who lived a life of luxury on ill-gotten gains.
Joe Guzzardi retired from the Lodi Unified School District in 2008. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.