New York State Assemblyman Jim Tedicsco sees an injustice. The upstate Republican saw wealthy scammer Bernie Madoff convicted and sent to federal prison for 150 years the rest of his life at taxpayer expense. How fair is that? Why can’t rich criminals pay their own way?
So, yesterday, Tedisco introduced a bill. The—what else could you call it?—”Madoff” bill would charge New York inmates for their imprisonment on a sliding scale. It would include New Yorkers serving on federal charges.
If such a law had been in effect at the time, it could have targeted such wealthy inmates as Martha Stewart, the lifestyle guru who was sentenced to five months in prison in 2004 for lying to investigators about a stock trade, and Leona Helmsley, the high-end hotelier who was sentenced to prison in 1989 for tax evasion. Helmsley’s prison sentence was reduced to four years, but she only served about a year and a half.
Tedisco said the need for his bill was demonstrated by “an incident in lower Manhattan’s Tombs prison,” a reference to an inmate’s costly bar mitzvah that Mayor Michael Bloomberg has said the city is investigating.
A sliding scale would determine how much convicts would have to pay, based on their assets, under Tedisco’s bill. Those who are worth $200,000 or more would pay the entire tab, while those whose net worth is $40,000 or less would pay nothing.
Homes wouldn’t be included in the total, but still, ouch. That’s a respectable middle-class net worth. Fortunately, New York’s legislatures is so dysfunctional right now that it probably couldn’t even vote itself a pay raise.