Bernie Madoff: Prison Hero

New York Magazine has an in-depth, 6 page article on how Bernie Madoff is faring in prison. He's a hero, groupies and all.

Based on interviews with two dozen current and former inmates, and a lawyer he gave an interview to after his arrival, a portrait emerges: Repentent? Not one bit. He's had enough of that.

“F*ck my victims,” he said, loud enough for other inmates to hear. “I carried them for twenty years, and now I’m doing 150 years.”

His Ego: Fully intact. Everyone wants his opinion about business. His closest buddies: those doing huge sentences like him, including convicted spy Jonathan Pollard and Mob Boss Carmine Persico. [More...]

What did anyone expect? That he'd be understanding about his life sentence? If repentance was the goal, he should have been sentenced to a decade. At his age, a ten year sentence is practically a life sentence, it would be long enough to for him to have plenty of time to reflect on why he was there and miss the things he cares about, yet it would have also provided him a ray of light at the end of the tunnel. If he had been shown the slightest compassion, perhaps he'd be able to feel remorse. Instead, all he can feel is bitterness.

All that aside, I do recommend reading the article.

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    Gee this is terrible (5.00 / 1) (#6)
    by jimakaPPJ on Mon Jun 07, 2010 at 08:36:56 AM EST
    me... agreeing with Donald.


    Wouldn't read too much into it.... (5.00 / 1) (#10)
    by kdog on Mon Jun 07, 2010 at 10:18:36 AM EST
    he's in prison...he's tryin' to sound like a bad-arse so as not to get f*cked with and to gain respect...it's a different world inside.

    Prison Nation (5.00 / 1) (#11)
    by squeaky on Mon Jun 07, 2010 at 11:33:51 AM EST
    Wow TL commenters seem reflective of prison nation, no wonder we have the largest prison population in the world per capita.

    Compassion yields compassion, vindictiveness yields vindictiveness. 150 years is absurd.

    You are stealing kdog's lines! (5.00 / 0) (#15)
    by oculus on Mon Jun 07, 2010 at 12:07:25 PM EST
    BS (none / 0) (#19)
    by squeaky on Mon Jun 07, 2010 at 01:47:12 PM EST
    I am stealing nothing.

    No way... (none / 0) (#22)
    by kdog on Mon Jun 07, 2010 at 02:04:09 PM EST
    we're just of a like mind on this stuff...besides I steal all my material from Dostoevsky, Kafka, Debs, etc.

    Here's a good line for you. Doesn't (none / 0) (#24)
    by oculus on Mon Jun 07, 2010 at 02:14:53 PM EST
    refer to Madoff.  From Tristero at Digby:  Too big to jail.  

    That is a good one... (none / 0) (#29)
    by kdog on Mon Jun 07, 2010 at 02:27:37 PM EST
    maybe when no one is too big to jail, we'll find don't need so many cages...I wonder how much of our "crime problem" stems from the big crimes of inequality under the law and rigged markets.

    Although you retain a sense of humor (none / 0) (#25)
    by oculus on Mon Jun 07, 2010 at 02:15:54 PM EST
    and irony.  All good.

    Yeah (none / 0) (#26)
    by squeaky on Mon Jun 07, 2010 at 02:19:00 PM EST
    Old school TL... things change.  Still good comments here, and I am always learning from you and the rest of the crowd here, that will never change.

    Amen... (none / 0) (#28)
    by kdog on Mon Jun 07, 2010 at 02:24:01 PM EST
    I was able to give my broken record a rest on this thread (for the most part:), thanks to your comments squeak.

    kdogevsky.. (none / 0) (#49)
    by jondee on Tue Jun 08, 2010 at 06:36:30 PM EST
    I think that there's something particular to the American psyche that feels purged or cleansed on some deep level whenever severe punishments are doled out; either to individuals, or sometimes to whole nations.

    Which is paradoxical when you consider that "deeply religious people",(in theory),generally believe that nobody gets away with anything anyway..


    Bernie Madoff is a victim of his own (5.00 / 1) (#16)
    by Anne on Mon Jun 07, 2010 at 12:27:44 PM EST
    enormous ego; he didn't have to start the scheme in the first place, but he thought he was smarter and more clever than everyone else, and the longer he was able to keep it going, the smarter and more clever he no doubt believed himself to be.

    The people he "allowed" to invest with him - and yes, it was like an exclusive club that not every Tom, Dick or Jane with money was permitted entry to - were chosen not just for the money they could bring to the table, but for their loyalty and willingness to keep their mouths shut.  It wasn't just greed - although that was surely a part of it - it was the aura of being an exclusive client.  It wasn't glitzy, it was shrouded in secrecy, and all people cared about were the (fake) statements that showed huge returns.  If he found out you were flapping your gums, he cashed you out, cut you and everyone associated with you out of further investing.

    Should they have been suspicious about the way Madoff did business?  Uh, yeah, they should have.  Should the SEC have done a better job?  OMG, yes.  

    Was the sentence absurd?  Sure, in the sense that he will never outlive it.  But he concocted the scheme that eventually ruined thousands of lives, and reaped untold "profits" himself; if he got one year for every life he financially destroyed, I'd venture to say the sentence would have been even longer.  And that doesn't sound vindictive to me, it sounds quite lenient.

    You say that compassion begets compassion, and I don't disagree.  But, where was Madoff's?  Shouldn't this have been a case of the government saying, "you go first?"

    And if compassion begets compassion, what does greed beget?  What does ego beget?  In Madoff's case, nothing good.  So, he's old - so what?  He'd still be at it if not for the confluence of the financial markets collapse and the SEC no longer being able to ignore the information that was given to them.

    The ego gets 'em every time, and Bernie Madoff needs to know he's just as human as everyone else, and I can't think of a better place for him to face that truth than in prison.  That he's still acting like he's a doer-of-good-deeds tells me all I need to know.


    150 Years???? (5.00 / 1) (#17)
    by squeaky on Mon Jun 07, 2010 at 01:46:08 PM EST
    I repeat: (5.00 / 1) (#27)
    by Anne on Mon Jun 07, 2010 at 02:21:21 PM EST
    if he got one year for every life he financially destroyed, I'd venture to say the sentence would have been even longer.  And that doesn't sound vindictive to me, it sounds quite lenient.

    Think of them as consecutive sentences, as opposed to concurrent; here is a link to Madoff's clients (pdf) - there are over 10,000 names on the list, which averages out to about 5.5 DAYS per victim - that doesn't sound too punitive to me.


    But Anne (none / 0) (#30)
    by jbindc on Mon Jun 07, 2010 at 02:32:49 PM EST
    He's an old guy.  Don't you think instead of this silly sentence in what is known as "Camp Fluffy", we should just let him go home to one of his fancy houses or apartments?

    He'll promise never to screw over people again?  Why should we punish him?  Oh, the humanity!


    Vindictive (none / 0) (#31)
    by squeaky on Mon Jun 07, 2010 at 02:34:33 PM EST
    A waste of a life, imo.  Prison nation mentality fits nicely into right wing corporate thinking. Keep em jailed, and coming back for profit.

    When we give up the idea of redemption as a value, we may as well give the right wing and their corporate sponsors the keys to the castle.

    If repentance was the goal, he should have been sentenced to a decade.

    I actually think 10 years is excessive.

    But vindictiveness is the goal here, and when progressives buy into that, they sell their soul, imo.


    Then why bother putting him in prison (3.00 / 2) (#39)
    by Anne on Mon Jun 07, 2010 at 03:05:17 PM EST
    at all - I mean, it's not like he actually killed anyone, right?  

    So, what's the right price for Bernie to pay?  A year, six months, one night without room service and served creamed chipped beef on day-old bread instead of filet of sole en papillote, with spring vegetables and a nice chardonnay?  In certain circles, isn't anything that interferes with the lifestyles of the rich and famous sort of vindictive?

    He didn't commit one big crime against over 10,000 people, all in one fell swoop; he committed a crime against each person or entity on every occasion when he took their money and then converted it to the use of himself or his other investors.

    I am not a wholesale supporter of lock-em-up-and-throw-away-the-key; from the reading I've done about Madoff and the whole sordid mess, I do not believe Mr. Madoff is owed any compassion.  His reasons for what he did were not charitable ones, they were not the result of an abusive childhood; this was a man who was generally well-respected in the community, had been president of NASDAQ, who took advantage of his own position, and parlayed it into a massive Ponzi scheme.

    There isn't an extenuating circumstance anywhere in the neighborhood that would give me reason to "go easy" on this guy: he's scum.


    The most important facet of Madoff is (none / 0) (#40)
    by oculus on Mon Jun 07, 2010 at 03:09:12 PM EST
    that a white collar criminal ended up spending any time in prison.

    Not everyone is worth of redemption (1.00 / 1) (#37)
    by nyjets on Mon Jun 07, 2010 at 03:00:57 PM EST
    For some crimes and for some people, redemption should not be considered. Considering the number of people Madoff hurt/destroyed, a life sentence is the correct sentence for him. A 10 year sentence would not be excessive. It would be a joke.

    I hope (none / 0) (#32)
    by jbindc on Mon Jun 07, 2010 at 02:40:46 PM EST
    He lives another good 20-25 years and is healthy.

    Predictable (none / 0) (#33)
    by squeaky on Mon Jun 07, 2010 at 02:46:30 PM EST
    Your vindictiveness is only paralleled to nyrias, but then again like nyrias you are a conservative, so who cares. No progressive disconnect there.

    Once again (none / 0) (#38)
    by jbindc on Mon Jun 07, 2010 at 03:03:36 PM EST
    So wrong on so many levels.

    But we'll go along with you because you think know everything when in reality, you haven't a clue at all.  But we'll humor you yet again....


    Ugh. 10 years???? Proportionality (none / 0) (#35)
    by observed on Mon Jun 07, 2010 at 02:49:59 PM EST
    is a basic principle of sentencing. If you believe in the justice system at all (and I'm not sure that you believe it has a legitimate function), then Madoff's sentence is quite understandable.

    Isn't there usually some (none / 0) (#41)
    by BackFromOhio on Mon Jun 07, 2010 at 07:12:04 PM EST
    basis for compassion toward the guilty, as in instance where a poor person not only steals to pay for medical treatment required to prevent the death of a sick family member, but also expresses great remorse for the theft?  What are grounds for compassion here -- old and/or illness in a person who expresses little remorse?

    Some here (none / 0) (#42)
    by jbindc on Tue Jun 08, 2010 at 07:44:21 AM EST
    Would say we should feel compassion for Hitler - I mean, he was horribly abused as a child.

    And while I hate to bring out the "H" bomb - it does get a little ridiculous that some would want us to have sympathy and compassion for everyone who commits a crime.  Some people are just without conscience and don't deserve compassion.


    Why shouldn't Madoff be in prison? (none / 0) (#13)
    by observed on Mon Jun 07, 2010 at 12:00:49 PM EST
    He caused enormous suffering.
    In my opinion, our legal system does not take into account the magnitude of harm that white collar crime can do, while at the same time grossly overestimating the harm of crimes such as prostitution and drug use.
    Let the pot-smokers, hookers and johns out, and give their years to the Madoffs and Skillings of the world.

    150 Years???? (none / 0) (#18)
    by squeaky on Mon Jun 07, 2010 at 01:46:27 PM EST
    Do you think they are going to keep the (5.00 / 1) (#21)
    by observed on Mon Jun 07, 2010 at 02:00:00 PM EST
    dead body in the cell for 130 years? I think we all understand that the number is symbolic.
    Skilling's sentence wasn't long enough, for a comparison.

    The symbolism is kinda sickening... (none / 0) (#23)
    by kdog on Mon Jun 07, 2010 at 02:06:40 PM EST
    if you ask me...and it's got nothing to do with Madoff, as sickening as he may be.

    I'm sickened that Skilling might get (none / 0) (#34)
    by observed on Mon Jun 07, 2010 at 02:48:10 PM EST
    out someday.

    I'm sickened... (none / 0) (#36)
    by kdog on Mon Jun 07, 2010 at 02:55:48 PM EST
    you feel that way OB, you're too good an egg.

    I can't imagine why a civilized (none / 0) (#45)
    by observed on Tue Jun 08, 2010 at 03:20:16 PM EST
    society would allow a Skilling out again.
    He is EXACTLY the sort of person for whom LWOP makes sense: he's a ruthless, intelligent, amoral predator who in my opinion has caused more suffering than most violent criminal criminals.

    If he got (none / 0) (#47)
    by jbindc on Tue Jun 08, 2010 at 05:51:57 PM EST
    1 day for each of his 10,000 victims, it would still be over 27 years.

    10 years would be 8 hours for each victim.

    That's called "sleeping" not punishment.


    OK M. Prosecutor (none / 0) (#48)
    by squeaky on Tue Jun 08, 2010 at 06:12:15 PM EST
    Your lock em up creds are all in order, but we knew that.

    I have no problem with that (none / 0) (#20)
    by observed on Mon Jun 07, 2010 at 01:47:30 PM EST
    You are advocating ... (none / 0) (#43)
    by nyrias on Tue Jun 08, 2010 at 01:21:54 PM EST
    to slap Madoff, who perpetrated one of the largest fraud in the history of the US, on the wrist only?

    He is old. It is not like he will be rehabilitated or anything. Plus, he is going to die in prison. So what if he is vindictive?

    I am ZERO compassion for him.


    Your Mantra (none / 0) (#44)
    by squeaky on Tue Jun 08, 2010 at 02:18:23 PM EST
    I am ZERO compassion for him.

    I guess it is good to have a logo, makes for less typing.


    do you agree? (none / 0) (#46)
    by nyrias on Tue Jun 08, 2010 at 05:00:00 PM EST
    Or are you in the camp of wall street fat cats who broke the law to fleece the rest of us?

    Bernie Madoff doesn't deserve light (3.67 / 3) (#3)
    by Anne on Mon Jun 07, 2010 at 07:20:28 AM EST
    at the end of the tunnel; he wasn't carrying people - that wasn't his money he was using to pay his investors - he was constantly bringing in new - and bigger - investors whose money he could use to pay "returns" to the old investors.  That's a Ponzi scheme, and eventually, it simply cannot be sustained.

    I just read Harry Markopolos' book (which I highly recommend), No One Would Listen, which is really more about how (1) pretty much everyone in the industry knew something was off about Madoff, that it was impossible for Madoff to legally be getting the returns he was reporting - even though they all wanted in, (2) Wall Street was intent on duplicating Madoff's returns in some other or similar investment vehicle, and (3) the SEC could have - if they had listened - stopped the scam years before it finally blew up.

    Even with the emphasis on the industry, the lack of oversight, the dismissal of real concerns and documented information that should have stopped this long before it fell apart, it was impossible not to understand that this was going to blow up, and when it did, it was going to ruin thousands of lives.  And while I appreciate that those who invested with Madoff should have known better - that something that is too good to be true probably is - for many of them, there was no light at the end of the tunnel: they killed themselves.  

    Bernie Madoff a hero?  Well, I guess he's probably in the only place where there are people who would celebrate his crime, glorify his scam and make him feel better about what he did - although Wall street is still probably looking to invent an investment that would rival what Madoff did - so he ought to be happy to stay there until he dies.

    As an aside, after reading the book, it is impossible to have any faith in the SEC: there are some people there who, by the failure to do their jobs, essentially aided and abetted Madoff in his scam; maybe they'd be heroes in prison, too.  If they were there, that is.

    Looking forward to reading that book (none / 0) (#9)
    by ruffian on Mon Jun 07, 2010 at 10:12:31 AM EST
    I agree with all of your points.

    He had plenty of time to learn and demonstrate his own compassion before he got caught, and he did not do it. Instead he chose to feather his own nest by ripping people off.

    I don't begrudge him getting whatever comfort he can out of his prison experience. If telling stories and basking in the admiration of other criminals helps pass the day, fine. As long as he can't rip anyone else off, he can do what he wants in prison.


    Agreed (none / 0) (#2)
    by nyjets on Mon Jun 07, 2010 at 06:59:56 AM EST
    You are correct.
    Furthermore, there is no guarantee if compassion would of been shown to him (an act I will admit I would be opposed to) he would of been repentent. In is much more likly he would remain the same.

    Yep (none / 0) (#4)
    by jbindc on Mon Jun 07, 2010 at 07:30:28 AM EST
    Had Bernie Madoff shown any compassion, he wouldn't have ripped so many people off.  Not sure why we should show compassion to someone who still doesn't care about his victimes.

    I suspect that (none / 0) (#5)
    by Lacy on Mon Jun 07, 2010 at 07:37:09 AM EST
     in prison Madoff may be getting some popularity from the dumbaxx media notion there were still billions of $ squirreled away somewhere, never understanding that a Ponzi scheme does not produce an increase in value, and that those huge balance sheet numbers on Madoff's fund reflected increased values for money that had never been invested.  (I.E., each billion received can be shown as quadrupled, but the "fund" never had but that single billion, and Madoff was spending the bejeebus out of that.)

    Clueless CNN even had a tough talking and equally clueless ex-con "expert" on prison life who predicted Madoff would be a marked man in prison with other inmates trying to beat out of him the truth about where those "missing" billions were hidden. He was truly a double-doofus. Actually, in the sort of prisons in which Madoff would be incarcerated, a famous name is an attraction to other inmates.


    Inmates are (none / 0) (#7)
    by ytterby on Mon Jun 07, 2010 at 08:54:41 AM EST
    rather more focused on immediate comforts than long-term goals. Madoff has money in prison, and he can use that money to get his laundry done, get his cell cleaned, buy special food from the people who work in the kitchen, and purchase the necessities of life (soap, shampoo, Twinkies, etc) at the commissary. And maybe even arrive at a special arrangement with a friendly guard to bring in the occasional Big Mac.  Inmates will cozy up to him because he can buy them things inside, not because of any hope to find those non-existent billions on the outside.

    Perhaps It Will Last (none / 0) (#8)
    by kaleidescope on Mon Jun 07, 2010 at 10:02:13 AM EST
    Hard to tell from what I've read whether Madoff is in protective custody. His close association with other celebrity inmates like Pollard and Persico would tend to indicate that he is.  Still, Madoff is a celebrity and someone can make a name for himself by beating or killing him.  His, "screw my victims" bravado sounds like how Gertrude Stein described Ernest Hemmingway -- false hair on chest.

    I agree that Madoff's sentence is ridiculously too long, but I also don't care if he feels any remorse.  In China they execute people who do what Madoff did.  Perhaps Madoff would have felt remorse as he was frog marched out to a clearing and forced to kneel before having a bullet fired into the back of his neck. But it would hardly be worth doing something like that just to make Madoff feel remorseful.

    Why should we care if Bernie feels remorse?  Or, to put it another way, why should we try to make him feel remorseful?

    Madoff is at Butner, which has both minimum and (none / 0) (#12)
    by ytterby on Mon Jun 07, 2010 at 11:42:04 AM EST
    medium security units. Due to the length of his sentence, I assume he's in the medium security facility. They don't usually put inmates into minimum if they have more than about 7 years to serve. I also don't think he's in protective custody. Why would he be? He isn't a cop or a snitch or a gangbanger. There isn't anybody in the system that has a beef with him.

    Although anything is possible, I think Madoff is going to be just fine. The pecking order in the system, particularly in medium and minimum, is based on money more than anything. He's just another rich inmate that can buy anything he needs, including friends. As long as he doesn't rip anybody off or stick his nose into somebody else's business, he'll be fine.  

    His colleagues are looking (none / 0) (#14)
    by oculus on Mon Jun 07, 2010 at 12:05:35 PM EST
    to make some money off Madoff when they get out.  Guess who I was friends w/in federal custoday?

    My problem is with all (none / 0) (#50)
    by jondee on Tue Jun 08, 2010 at 06:58:02 PM EST
    those deregulate-everything Greenspan disciples in very high places -- who not only haven't been "punished" and get to use Bernie (dying for their sins) as a distraction -- but have been rewarded with Medals of Freedom and Cabinet positions..

    The whole thing is grotesque and surreal.