Former vice president Joe Biden said last night during the third Democratic that he does not believe anyone should go to prison for the commission of a nonviolent crime. That is good news for the next Bernie Madoff. Though I find it hard to believe that Joe Biden won’t walk that one back once he reflects on what it would actually mean.
The timing for his comment is interesting since today is the day that former Desperate Housewife, Felicity Huffman, will find out if she is headed to prison for her participation in the college admission bribery scandal. She paid $15,000 for what amounted to a fake SAT score for one of her daughters and is charged with fraud and conspiracy. (Important note: Her daughter had no idea she had done this.)
The prosecution has recommended a month of incarceration for the actress, who is also the wife of William H. Macy. Macy knew about the plan to buy a higher SAT score but has not been charged. Huffman’s attorney assert that jail is unwarranted.
I think she should go to jail.
Wealth, privilege and power can make a level playing field seem impossible—prison is the only leveler. And one month in prison is nothing compared to the decades and lifetimes spent in prison by those who have committed nonviolent crimes but lack the massive resources and fame that Huffman enjoys.
We have literally seen African-American men go to jail for decades for stealing $50. We have seen African-American mothers incarcerated for lying about their ZIP Code so that their children could attend a safer public school. We have seen people sit on death row only to be exonerated, their inalienable right of freedom stolen from them.
I get no pleasure in saying that Felicity Huffman should be sentenced to prison. But if we are to fulfill the promise of a more perfect union, fairness is vital. And fairness requires that Hoffman‘s relinquish her freedom like anyone else would have to; it requires that she get up close and personal with mothers who love their children just as much and who could never have dreamed of doing what she did.