I have this book, The Big Book of Crime it’s called. The cover says otherwise, but I swear it’s written by The Count on Sesame Street. Every other sentence is punctuated with an exclamation point. You can almost hear an “ah HA!” after each point is made.
However, the author (The Count) makes at least one memorable observation. He states that while crime can be easily absorbed by society, it tends to utterly destroy the criminal himself.
Which got me thinking about Bernie Madoff.
Bernie hurt a lot of people. Now he’s going to prison. Prison! For 150 years. At the gorgeous age of 71. What a grisly fate!
I tried to imagine it. I’m Bernie Madoff. Not long ago, I lived in a Manhattan penthouse. My building paid a man just to open the door. I hobnobbed with members of the social elite, and I dined on food with unpronounceable names. I was filthy-stinking rich, and I didn’t know how the “other-half” lived because I barely knew the other-half existed. As far as I know, the boy parking my car is a robot.
And then, wham! A quantum leap into prison, where everything isn’t very nice. Maybe he thinks his advanced age will spare him some of prison’s indignities. Perhaps his hardcore Wall Street thievery will earn him points with the Ayran Brotherhood, the Mexican Mafia, and the Black Guerilla Family. Why, as an educated man, Bernie could be the prison librarian! Like the old guy in Shawshank. He could even assuage his guilty conscious by teaching a gang-member or two how to read.
I don’t think a library position is in Bernie’s future. I think the fetal position is Bernie’s future.
Here’s my strategy should I ever find myself going to prison. If Bernie wants to, he can borrow it: During recreation time, when everybody is hanging out in the prison yard, I’ll stand atop a work-out bench and calmly address my fellow inmates.
“Gentlemen! My name is Angry Czeck. Granted, I am not here to make friends. But neither am I here to make enemies! I only wish to pay my debt to society in peace. I’ll treat you fair if you do the same for me. Have we reached an understanding?”
And then my new best friends will realize that all the cigarette branding, raping, and eye gouging is just so much counter-productive, macho bullshit. I wouldn’t be surprised if some of these men found inner-peace in ballroom dancing.
I don’t think even Ron Howard would film that scenario. Bernie should just face it – he’s small, he’s weak, he’s infamous, and his roommates have nothing better to do than to kick the crap out of him. As one “prison expert” on CNN put it, “He’s gonna get assaulted.”
Really, I can’t think of a worse place than prison. You’re just surrounded by goons. In the movies, you always find a group of lovable, scruffy, good-natured prisoners who like to sketch birds and play wind instruments. In real prison, it’s packed wall-to-wall with psychos who wouldn’t know how to build a sandwhich let alone build a normal relationship with a human being. I get nervous in a Wal-Mart, let alone in a cafeteria where somebody has a shiv for you. And I haven’t even gotten to the most unnerving aspect.
Wait for it.
Egah! Unless Bernie devises a scheme for tripling cigarette rations real quick, I have a feeling he’s going to get passed around like a campfire jug of whiskey. These are supposed to be your golden years, Bernie! Now your life is just an episode of Oz.
Bernie ruined a lot of lives, true, but his victims at least retain the peace-of-mind knowing that they won’t be tabbed as Cell Block H’s pony boy anytime soon. Society absorbed Bernie’s crime with barely a flinch, but Bernie has been destroyed – in addition to whatever the inmates of whichever prison decide to do to him.
There is some hope for Bernie. With good behavior, he can be eligible for a 15% reduction of his sentence. That leaves him only 127 years in the slam.