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Jewish World Review May 19, 2002 / 8 Sivan, 5762

Art Buchwald

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Consumer Reports

White collar prisons | When Lester Maddox was governor of Georgia, he was asked a question about his prison reform. He said, "We're doing the best we can and before we do much better we have to get a better grade of prisoner."

I thought of this the other day when Al Taubman, a billionaire owner of shopping malls and Sotheby's, the giant auction house, was sentenced to one year and one day for engaging in price fixing with Christie's, the other auction house giant.

Now this is the kind of prisoner I'm sure Maddox had in mind.

Taubman is not the only white-collar businessman to go to the slammer. Waiting in line are executives from Enron and Arthur Andersen, brokers from the largest firms, crooked investment advisors, and let's not forget government officials who committed high crimes and misdemeanors.

For years, we all know, the prisons have been accepting a lower class of inmate - many without an education, others who are psychotic, and still others who are just plain antisocial. The chances of reforming them are very low.

On the other hand, white-collar criminals have gone to the best business schools, such as Harvard, Wharton and Stanford. These people are used to the good life and will not give the warden any trouble.

It's true that Allenwood Federal prison, in Pennsylvania, has some white collar criminals. They have been sent there because it has tennis courts and is known as the country club of prisons by convicted felons all over the country.

But prison reformers say the white-collar prisoners should be separated from those inmates who are doing time for robbing banks and shooting people.

It has been suggested that they have their own prison, where they will be able to mingle with their own kind.

White-collar criminals need a tickertape machine in their cells so they can follow the market and make some money while they are doing time.

The Wall Street Journal should be available in the recreation room and lights should stay on until Louis Rukeyser finishes his show.

Classes in shredding documents, taught by convicted accountants, should be available.

The inmates will be allowed to bring in their tailors from Brioni, Calvin Klein and Saville Row so they can have hand-sewn prison uniforms.

At meals, a nice wine list will be available. A golf course will be constructed for the enjoyment of embezzlers, alimony chiselers and those convicted of mail fraud and tax fraud.

We must convince white-collar criminals that after paying their debt to society, honesty is always the best policy. But the lesson will never be learned by those who still have numbered bank accounts in Switzerland.

Comment on JWR contributor Art Buchwald's column by clicking here.

05/15/02: Those in depression
05/09/02: Mother's Day in the market
05/07/02: Salary negotiations
04/26/02: Homeland security
04/24/02: The greatest breakthrough
04/18/02: Conflict of Interest
04/15/02: The Sign That Couldn't
04/11/02: It's Cherry Blossom Time
04/08/02: The Young Audience
03/31/02: Safe Deposit for Sale
03/26/02: Au Revoir to Soft Money
03/21/02: Andersen Defense Fund?
03/19/02: Celebrity kickers
03/15/02: A Mickey Mouse solution
03/13/02: Shadow government in the sandbox
03/07/02: The Way It Is
03/05/02: Not telling the truth
03/01/02: Book flogging
02/27/02: The players are mad

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