Should the college-admissions scam participants get jail time?

On the news tonight, and now via CNN, I learned that thirteen parents and college staff who participated in the college-admissions scam, falsifying college applications to improve kids’ chances, have pleaded guilty. These include the best-known participant, actor Felicity Huffman. I suspect that others like Lori Laughlin will follow shortly with similar pleas, for there’s a penalty cost for fighting charges that were so well substantiated with evidence.

When this all broke, I thought that some jail time, though not much, would be an effective deterrent to others who might cheat in this way, and would also show that rich white people are not above justice. But now I’m beginning to wonder if the cheaters will get anything more than a slap on the wrist. As CNN writes:

Thirteen wealthy parents, including actress Felicity Huffman, and one coach will plead guilty to using bribery and other forms of fraud as part of the college admissions scandal, federal prosecutors in Boston said on Monday.

Huffman, the “Desperate Housewives” star, pleaded guilty to paying $15,000 to a fake charity associated with Rick Singer to facilitate cheating for her daughter on the SATs, the complaint says.

She faces up to 20 years in prison. In exchange for Huffman’s plea, federal prosecutors will recommend incarceration at the “low end” of the sentencing range, a $20,000 fine and 12 months of supervised release. They will not bring further charges. [JAC: her lawyers have asked for NO jail time.]

A federal judge will have the final say on the outcome for Huffman and the other defendants.

I’m usually not this vindictive, but it seems to me that without jail time, a $20K fine (easily affordable by these rich parents) and a year of “supervised release” is an undeservedly light punishment. Give parents like Huffman 4-6 months in jail! That, I think, will be a strong deterrent. Of course other participants may have committed more serious crimes, but here I’m talking just about those rich parents who paid money to produce college applications full of lies.

Perhaps I’m being too vindictive here, but there’s no deterrent like incarceration, however light, for thenceforth you’ll always be a person who “went to jail”.

What do you think? Vote below, but leave comments with your take.



  1. vtvita
    Posted April 8, 2019 at 6:30 pm | Permalink

    I’m usually vindictive.

    • Claudia Baker
      Posted April 9, 2019 at 8:14 am | Permalink


  2. Steve Gerrard
    Posted April 8, 2019 at 6:36 pm | Permalink

    Not sure what the charges are in terms of felony, etc. But for most people, having a criminal record is more of a punishment than the prison time is, at least if the time is two years or less.

    Make them fund a full four year scholarship for a deserving student at the same school.

    Make it be expensive if you want a deterrent.

    • Posted April 8, 2019 at 6:47 pm | Permalink

      In Switzerland, traffic fines are based on income, not the infraction. I like your idea of funding scholarships and the amount should be a significant percentage of the net worth of those involved. Let them know the alternative is the maximum incarceration.

      • Christopher
        Posted April 8, 2019 at 6:55 pm | Permalink

        If only! I have often argued for this, especially in cases of corporate pollution cases. Piddly little fines will never deter the perpetrators, and this corruption case is no different. Hell, look how much they were willing to pay to get their idiot kids a university spot!

      • dvandivere
        Posted April 9, 2019 at 1:45 am | Permalink

        Do you have a reference for that? I’ve had several flat rate speeding tickets from there (my daughter lives there at the end of a ten hour drive, and their cameras will get you if you’re more than 5 or so kph over the limit).

        It’s not a bad idea, and they could only do it to Swiss citizens, I’ve just never heard that before.

        • Michael Fisher
          Posted April 9, 2019 at 2:15 am | Permalink

          It’s called a “day-fine” or a “structured fine” – it’s based on the offender’s daily personal income. AFAIK foreign visitors aren’t day-fined since it requires knowledge of a citizen’s income for one thing.

          From Wiki: Jurisdictions employing the day-fine include Finland (Finnish: päiväsakko), Estonia (Estonian: päevamäär), Sweden (Swedish: dagsbot), Denmark (Danish: dagbøde), Germany (German: Tagessatz), France (French: Jour-amende), Switzerland, and Macao all have some form of sliding-scale fines in place for offences ranging from traffic tickets to petty theft & assault**.

          The Finns started it in the early 1920s with a system of progressive taxation & a related system of progressive financial punishment.

          From The Atlantic: <a href=";>FINLAND, home of the $103k speeding ticket

          “Finland’s system for calculating fines is relatively simple: It starts with an estimate of the amount of spending money a Finn has for one day, and then divides that by two — the resulting number is considered a reasonable amount of spending money to deprive the offender of. Then, based on the severity of the crime, the system has rules for how many days the offender must go without that money. Going about 15 mph over the speed limit gets you a multiplier of 12 days, and going 25 mph over carries a 22-day multiplier”

          ** In Europe at least touching someone can be an assault in law or a forceful push as I discovered: I pushed a kid in the back to get him onto a safe area from walking in traffic ON the road, in pouring rain, when he refused to voluntarily do so. I was charged with assault after a parent of the kid complained, but it was dropped.

          • Pierluigi Ballabeni
            Posted April 9, 2019 at 3:17 am | Permalink

            Swiss “day-fines” are not actual fines. They are applied in case of a jail sentence. A jail sentence of 6 months or less can be replaced by a day-fine. For instance, if you get a 60 days jail sentence instead of going to jail you pay a day fee multiplied by 60, the day fee depending on your income (not linearly; it seems to me that people with high incomes pay relatively lower day-fines). Day-fines were created to allow people sentenced for minor crimes to keep their job and to avoid crowding the jails.

            • Michael Fisher
              Posted April 9, 2019 at 3:36 am | Permalink

              So are you saying that offences such as being slightly over the speed limit [non-jail offences] do not incur a fine? Or are you saying those fines are not scaled according to income? I am confused by your comment Pierluigi.

              Example of my confusion: A forum I just checked has an old post from 2012 stating that a speed excess of 35-39 kmh equates to 15 x daily income & 40+ kph is court determined. No mention of jail for a first offence.

          • rickflick
            Posted April 9, 2019 at 9:43 am | Permalink

            I like progressive fines. They should be adopted in the US. It would help give us a more equitable justice system. I suspect the idea could be extended to many crimes in a systematic way. Don’t leave it up to a judge or jury.

            • Gordon
              Posted April 9, 2019 at 9:17 pm | Permalink

              Good idea until you realise that many of the serious rich have little or no “income” thanks to their lawyers and accountants.

              • rickflick
                Posted April 10, 2019 at 7:52 pm | Permalink

                Well, we can’t bill them for money they don’t have, but if it’s known to be hiding off-shore, then I’d just send them to stir until they found their checkbook.

    • eric
      Posted April 8, 2019 at 7:03 pm | Permalink

      Most of these parents are so wealthy at this point that they never have to work another day in their lives if they don’t want to. Also I doubt very much a criminal record is any deterrent to a hollywood producer when considering an actor like Macy or actress like Laughlin. So in this case ‘having a record’ is likely to have very little impact on their lives.

      • Posted April 9, 2019 at 4:20 am | Permalink

        Yes it does; it costs them future employment. In fact, I believe both Laughlin and Huffman lost acting jobs for the mere fact of their arrest. Conviction brings you even more restriction of employment in the future.

  3. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted April 8, 2019 at 6:37 pm | Permalink

    Why the American fetish for putting people in jail?

    These were non-violent crimes, and not committed out of malice, and not likely to be repeated by the perpetrators. So the only point of jailing them is the alleged deterrent effect on others. You could justify any punishment up to and including the death penalty with that argument.

    By the way, you call 4 to 6 months ‘light’?

    It costs a lot of money to keep someone in jail. A suitable fine, on the other hand, brings in money to the system, and, together with the public embarrassment, is I think a much more appropriate punishment.


    • aljones909
      Posted April 8, 2019 at 6:59 pm | Permalink

      I’d agree. 10 hours of actual community service a week for a year seems appropriate. A fine seems pointless for the very rich.

      • Posted April 9, 2019 at 12:05 pm | Permalink

        Community service working to help disadvantaged children get into higher education.

        • Posted April 10, 2019 at 9:52 am | Permalink

          I agree with this. Plus a hefty donation to schools in poor neighbourhoods.

      • Posted April 10, 2019 at 3:52 pm | Permalink

        Community service always sounds swell, but in practicality, I don’t know. Was volunteer at a cat shelter that routinely accepted young offenders who picked this place over, say, picking up trash, figuring it was easier. In reality they were useless and/or had to be supervised. One used the opportunity to steal drugs from the shelter.

    • ubernez
      Posted April 8, 2019 at 7:36 pm | Permalink

      Spot on.
      I think, when taken in isolation, we can envisage harsh penalties for specific transgressions.
      But when we then look at other crimes,and the current one seems less dire.
      In my weaker moments, if I was wealthy, I can see myself doing anything to get my children into the best college – against all my principles. The parental force is strong in this one.
      But while I do understand, my sense of fairness and equality of opportunity shrieks ‘foul play’.
      I’d go harder after the people taking the bribes. At least the parents have a misguided sense of helping their children.

    • Heather Hastie
      Posted April 8, 2019 at 7:43 pm | Permalink

      Your first sentence was my first response too.

      I agree with everything else you wrote as well.

    • Michael Waterhouse
      Posted April 8, 2019 at 8:34 pm | Permalink

      I have wondered about that too.

      Also, a phrase you hear American police say a lot is, “I am going to take you to jail”, or “you are going to jail”, or “do what I say or your’e going to jail”.

      Maybe it’s a catchphrase that doesn’t mean actual jail, but I have noticed it for quite a while and don’t hear it anywhere else.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted April 8, 2019 at 9:46 pm | Permalink

        That statement generally means that a suspect is about to be arrested and taken to the jailhouse for booking. What happens after that — usually release on bond or (for less serious offenses and/or for defendants without criminal records) some type of non-monetary recognizance program — is up to a judge, not the police.

        • Michael Waterhouse
          Posted April 10, 2019 at 3:34 am | Permalink

          I see.
          Like here they might say “come back to the station with us”

    • Posted April 8, 2019 at 8:59 pm | Permalink

      Hey, we’re a country where supporters of Trump chant “lock her up, lock her up.” You guys are softies.

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted April 8, 2019 at 10:25 pm | Permalink

      Yes. Jail for non-violent crime is absurd, unimaginative & expensive.

      • Posted April 9, 2019 at 4:21 am | Permalink

        What about Bernie Madoff? What about smuggline huge quantities of heroin? What about the theft of millions of dollars of paintings from the Isabelle Stuart Bardner Museum in Boston (still unsolved)? Those are all nonviolent crimes. I guess you’d let the perps walk with maybe a fine or community service. . .

        • Michael Fisher
          Posted April 9, 2019 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

          For those offenders who are not a physical risk to others one can restrict their freedoms without chucking them in jail.

          Of the Bernie Madoff types: nearly all of those [the vast majority] are unpunished & living the chauffeured life of Riley, so the first order of business would be complete transparency within the banking & insurance industries. Make it impossible to fraudulently underwrite overvalued assets, to indulge in predatory lending & to employ all the other tricks that allow the many, many parasites like Trump & Madoff to prosper.

          Instead we have deregulated & I see no reason why the 2008 crisis won’t happen again & again. If we revise our systems correctly it should be designed such that tainted profits can’t be put out of reach by ownership transfers or other shenanigans.

          Madoff types lose all their assets & all transfers are clawed back. They then spend the rest of their lives [or an agreed term] in community service on minimum wage without holidays & within strict physical boundaries [say NYC] – payment for work would be in non-transferable vouchers perhaps. They would not be allowed to have a line of credit ever again. I suppose Madoff’s main problem might be staying alive – that needs work! 🙂

          Some speculative thoughts:

          High end drug smugglers are rarely clean from violence – you don’t get to be in that position without some little hiccups along the way. But drug mules? I don’t know enough about the scene, but their own families [and/or their own lives] can be forfeit if they don’t deliver. Nobody anywhere seems to have figured out how to permanently chop off the tentacles of the cartels, but that is where we need to start – make it much harder for them to corrupt community institutions via violence & pay offs. At the level of the mule, community service could work if the community is fully functional with drug treatment programs, social workers, honest legal system etc.

          Jails rarely work & being a jailer isn’t a job I’d wish on anybody.

          • rickflick
            Posted April 9, 2019 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

            Probably jails don’t work because they are ill-defined. They could focus on rehabilitation and skill training so they don’t operate like a revolving door.

            • Michael Fisher
              Posted April 9, 2019 at 2:15 pm | Permalink

              Jails are just one element in a system that doesn’t work. Jail rehabilitation schemes and/or making jails more humane isn’t going to work when the whole system is unfair – where even the jailed guilty have justified grievances, where the staff are low paid, low skilled guardians employed by for-profit companies. It’s a huge tragic joke.

              The above commentary applies to the UK as well as USA.

              As to the revolving door aspect – it’s nearly impossible to get back on your feet after jail – just getting a job with employee protections is a steep hill. You are fodder for the uninsured daily rate car wash market & that’s about it.

            • Michael Fisher
              Posted April 9, 2019 at 2:26 pm | Permalink

              Also, both USA & US have reversed years of good work by closing institutions that housed, protected & instructed [sometimes] the mentally ill – they are now in the community [that ignores their needs] or in prison [that ignores their needs] or on the street [that ignores their needs] or they are dead.

              The prisons are stuffed full of mentally ill people.

              Austerity news: A college for the blind in the UK is closing because of lack of funds. Fuck me sideways this stuff can only go so far before we are on the streets – hanging bankers, socialites & politicians.

              • merilee
                Posted April 9, 2019 at 3:38 pm | Permalink

                Ronald Reagan closed a lot of the mental hospitals in California while he was Governor. I read sonewhere that he didn’t believe in mental illness.

              • Michael Fisher
                Posted April 9, 2019 at 3:53 pm | Permalink

                Nancy probably told him it was in the stars. He believed that people should take more personal responsibility – even those that couldn’t it seems! A touch of irony perhaps given his Alzheimer’s two decades later [well it would have been ironic if he’d been broke & cast to the winds of a care much less system, but of course he led a cushioned life while losing his ability to self determine].

              • rickflick
                Posted April 10, 2019 at 7:28 pm | Permalink

                Reagan’s son is an atheist. If that helps.

              • Michael Fisher
                Posted April 10, 2019 at 7:54 pm | Permalink

                Yeah Ron Reagan Jr. – a little chap known over here for his shortish stint as a co-presenter on a forgettable, but long running BBC TV show for children called Record Breakers. Just a step up from cable. 🙂

              • merilee
                Posted April 10, 2019 at 8:09 pm | Permalink

                I think he was a ballet dancer for a while, which apparently drove Ronnie, Sr. Crazy.

              • Michael Fisher
                Posted April 10, 2019 at 8:23 pm | Permalink

                From Wiki I understand his dad saw him once only & compared him [favourably? unfavourably?] to Fred Astaire – not sure if that was praise or not, but I doubt Pres Ronald was into the arts – more a jock I suppose 🙂

              • merilee
                Posted April 10, 2019 at 8:26 pm | Permalink

                More a movie cowboy.

          • Posted April 9, 2019 at 3:05 pm | Permalink

            Losing one’s freedom for some months or years is a huge penalty and a strong deterrent.

            Non-violent criminals are making cool-headed decisions to break the law.

            • Michael Fisher
              Posted April 9, 2019 at 3:23 pm | Permalink

              True. My vision of community service involves losing a range of freedoms too & doesn’t punish the innocent quite as much e.g. the children of a jailed parent suffer whereas someone on community service may be required to be under curfew, at home during those hours when not working for the community. Children will not be taken from their parent[s] if said parent[s] can be dealt with within the community – blameless children [often split up among foster families] should not be the collateral damage of an inflexible, unimaginative system IMO. I recognise though that there will be times when children should be protected from the behaviour, attitudes & lifestyles of some criminal parents.

        • Mike Anderson
          Posted April 9, 2019 at 1:07 pm | Permalink

          Theft of millions of dollars of property is more significant than “theft” of one person’s education access.

    • Posted April 8, 2019 at 11:13 pm | Permalink

      What I imagined “light” to mean was a couple weeks. Glad to know I’m not the only one who thinks a third to half a year isn’t really light.


    • Harrison
      Posted April 9, 2019 at 6:52 am | Permalink

      All white collar crime is technically “nonviolent.” But some of it is immensely ruinous to other people.

      If you’d prefer a “suitable fine” to throwing them in jail, then let’s talk what “suitable” means for people who are worth millions. It’s certainly not pocket change in the low thousands. Not for a charge as serious as conspiracy to defraud an institution.

    • Posted April 9, 2019 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

      A fine, even if substantial, will reinforce the conviction of many that rich people are beyond the scope of justice (I disagree with prof. Coyne about “white” – look at Jussie Smolett).
      And getting rich spoiled brats into prestigeous universities through the back door, in a society where such education is so much overrated, makes ordinary people feel betrayed and doomed, like subjects of some banana republic.
      I admit I am biased because I am a university teacher. I hate when precious darlings such as the children of the defendants come to our exam, cannot recite stuff taught in high school, and then the dean asks why we fail so many students.

  4. Posted April 8, 2019 at 6:38 pm | Permalink

    I agree with your assessment. A short jail term is needed to show that the justice system treats the rich and poor alike. That is not true of course, but let’s not make it look any worse than it is.

    • A C Harper
      Posted April 9, 2019 at 2:45 am | Permalink

      “A short jail term is needed to show that the justice system treats the rich and poor alike.”

      If ‘ordinary people’ would get jail time then ‘the rich’ should get jail time. Otherwise you are using the law for political purposes and showing discrimination against a group of people for a group characteristic.

      That’s not to say the law shouldn’t be corrected to work ‘without fear or favour, where necessary.

  5. W.Benson
    Posted April 8, 2019 at 6:41 pm | Permalink

    Jail time? My ‘vote’ is Most Definitely! At least 4 months in the clinker, suspended, with a hefty fine, and community service cleaning bathrooms at a nearby public school.

  6. Diana MacPherson
    Posted April 8, 2019 at 6:46 pm | Permalink

    Jail seems really harsh to me. I could see house arrest and community service on top of a criminal record.

  7. Jon Gallant
    Posted April 8, 2019 at 6:58 pm | Permalink

    I vote against jail time for the perps. Instead, I suggest that they (the parents, not the kids) be sentenced to mandatory return to college at certain selected institutions. I suggest sentencing them to two semesters at Evergreen State, with no time off for good behavior.

    • Posted April 8, 2019 at 7:03 pm | Permalink

      Evergreen. That might run afoul of the Eighth Amendment.

      • rickflick
        Posted April 8, 2019 at 7:25 pm | Permalink

        8 = cruel and unusual punishments!

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted April 8, 2019 at 9:49 pm | Permalink

      “Good behavior” doesn’t seem to be an option there. 🙂

  8. eric
    Posted April 8, 2019 at 6:59 pm | Permalink

    IMO the strongest deterrent is having their kids rejected from every high-end school after this – even ones they would’ve otherwise qualified for. I.e. demonstrate that the outcome of cheating is worse than the outcome of not cheating would have been.

    Let’em go to a community college for the first couple of years, then transfer in to a 4-year on the strength of their record.

    IMO the parents should get maybe a year in jail. Enough to disrupt their lifestyle and business.

    • aljones909
      Posted April 8, 2019 at 7:03 pm | Permalink

      Punishing children for the sins of the parents seems very biblical.
      “God warns that He is “a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me.”

      • loren russell
        Posted April 8, 2019 at 7:46 pm | Permalink

        Of the cases covered in the media, it’s clear that most, if not all, of the kids were in on the caper. Some helped put together fake sports dossiers. Many would have been quite aware of their being on sports rosters, or being credited for online courses they never touched.

        That leaves aside the cute trick of claiming learning disability mitigation that allowed them 8-16 hours to complete their SATs — that apparently is so widespread in rich communities that only some poor sucker agrees to do it in the normal four hour period..

        • merilee
          Posted April 8, 2019 at 8:07 pm | Permalink

          Getting extra time for the SATs is ridiculous. Part of what they’re supposed to judge is quickness “on the draw.” I’m not denying learning-disabled kids the right to a college education, but do you really think they would succeed at an Ivy League type school? So glad I took the SATs back in the days when we didn’t even study for them. They were supposed to measure aptitude in math and, I suppose the verbal scores would reward people who’d read more.

          • BJ
            Posted April 8, 2019 at 8:40 pm | Permalink

            I got time-and-a-quarter for the LSATs. While my reading comprehension is obviously very high, my reading speed is at the 26th percentile (in addition to other issues, all related to processing visual information). Think about that — that’s basically the range of a nearly mentally retarded person. Without extra time, my score would not have accurately reflected my abilities. I was able to be the best student in my classes at one of the best law schools in the country (and graduated Summa Cum Laude from college), so it’s not as if my LSAT score wasn’t reflective of my capabilities.

            I also got time-and-a-quarter on my tests in law school (but I wasn’t just talking about grades in the previous paragraph, as I usually understood the cases better than the other students in class…it just took me a lot longer to read them!). Without that, I couldn’t finish any of the tests, so I wouldn’t have been able to demonstrate my knowledge of what was taught in the courses. I didn’t need extra time on the SATs or college tests because they were so easy for me, but once sentences start to pass certain lengths or have too many words with four or more syllables in them, my reading speed slows down further.

            There are cases where people have extreme learning disabilities in a specific area that make measuring their abilities in the normally allotted time unfeasible. These are rare instances and I agree that this system is abused, but it is a necessary system for some people.

            • rickflick
              Posted April 8, 2019 at 8:50 pm | Permalink

              That’s a ripping good story. Congratulations for overcoming. I’d rather have you as an attorney than some smart-ass speed reader.

              • BJ
                Posted April 8, 2019 at 9:28 pm | Permalink

                Haha thanks. Unfortunately, I only got through the first two years of school. I started a business during the first year and, by the end of the second, I had to choose between school and running the business full-time. I chose the latter. But I hope to one day finish that degree, if only because I invested time and money in it and would like to have it!

              • rickflick
                Posted April 8, 2019 at 9:55 pm | Permalink

                May your wishes become reality.

              • BJ
                Posted April 8, 2019 at 10:12 pm | Permalink

                Thanks, rickflick 🙂

            • yazikus
              Posted April 8, 2019 at 9:59 pm | Permalink

              Seconding rickflick, that is a fantastic story. I had always heard that the limiting factor, of sorts, for whether one would survive law school was the speed with which you read. I’m glad to hear it doesn’t all come down to that. I had wanted to go into law when I was younger – (who knows, maybe I still will someday) but then science came along and stole my interest.

              • BJ
                Posted April 8, 2019 at 10:11 pm | Permalink

                Honestly, knowing what I know now, I would have taken the advice of the mature adults around me in high school and applied myself in the sciences, and then I would have studied either chemistry or medicine in college. Instead, in my infinite teenage wisdom, I ignored everyone, applied myself as little as possible in high school and college, and took whatever I felt like taking in college (AKA a “Liberal Studies” degree. Some psychology courses here, some politics courses there, etc.).

                I wish I studied chemistry. Unfortunately, teenagers never know how stupid they are until many years later.

              • yazikus
                Posted April 8, 2019 at 10:20 pm | Permalink

                Indeed, if only we knew then what we know now! Alas, we live with our choices, but as you state, it is never to late to go back to school. Hell, if it were free, I’d probably be one of those dreaded ‘forever students’. My interests are broad and if I didn’t have to pay I’d be signing up for all sorts of things. I went to four different high schools, and (cue the horror music), dropped out twice. Granted, this was partially because I was dealing with culture shock, moved out on my own at 16 and thought working made more sense than showing up for ‘careers’ class. Teenage logic at its finest. So I took a rather longer route with a detour in the private sector that taught me a lot, and how to be a much better student when I did go back. I’m very much of the school of thought (pun intended 😉 that there is learning to be had from all things – if we are willing to work for it.

              • BJ
                Posted April 8, 2019 at 10:13 pm | Permalink

                And hey, it’s never too late to go back to school! I remember reading an article a few years ago about an octogenarian woman who went and got a law degree.

              • BJ
                Posted April 8, 2019 at 11:08 pm | Permalink

                Your story sounds far more interesting than mine, and it sounds like you were a far wiser teenager than I was 😛

            • merilee
              Posted April 8, 2019 at 11:34 pm | Permalink

              Interesting to hear, BJ. Congrats on doing so well. Are you working as a lawyer now?
              Are you perhaps saying that you can think faster than you can read? I have two close extremely bright Math teacher friends, both of whom have great difficulty reading (and comprehending) anything of any length.

              • BJ
                Posted April 9, 2019 at 12:21 am | Permalink

                Thanks for the congrats.

                No, after two years of law school I left to run the business I started full-time. I had to choose between one or the other. I’d like to go back and finish my degree some time in the next few years, though.

                It’s not a matter of thinking faster than I can read at all. My brain just can’t process visual information at normal speeds. My spacial reasoning is way below average as well (about 30th percentile). Have you ever taken an IQ test? You know those blocks that are half red and half white, and you have to make the shape they show you? I couldn’t get past the second one. My brain just doesn’t process most visual information properly. It’s strange because, when it comes to sports, I have very quick reflexes. But I’ve always played my chosen sports based on strategy, anticipation, and overall understanding of mechanics. Still, my reflexes are excellent when, say, a hockey puck is flying at me at 85 MPH. I guess that’s a different kind of visual processing, and it also involves many other things I’m very good at, like anticipation and understanding the likelihood of outcomes in a split second.

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted April 9, 2019 at 5:01 pm | Permalink

                I think we’re similar with some shapes. I don’t know if it’s a RAM problem or not but those questions where you have to take a shape and identify what it looks like in some other angle – forget it. I just skip those. I also struggle badly with math and I seriously have no idea what someone is spelling when they spell a word out loud – pig Latin actually fools me. Though I excel at language and sounds.

              • BJ
                Posted April 9, 2019 at 12:23 am | Permalink

                And I can read and comprehend just about anything, so long as it isn’t so far above my knowledge of a subject as to be impossible (e.g. explanations of high-level physics). It just takes a very long time for me to read it. Comprehension is definitely not the problem.

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted April 9, 2019 at 5:02 pm | Permalink

                I too am a slow reader. I can speed read and skim things but if I want to really read it takes me a long time. Also, I take forever reading sub-titles but partially I think that’s because I’m also listening to and watching the movie.

              • BJ
                Posted April 9, 2019 at 12:45 am | Permalink

                Sorry to post again, but I’m hoping this will provide more explanation. I started reading philosophers like Heidegger and Sartre when I was 13. I’m not trying to brag, I promise. Just trying to give you an idea of how I can comprehend complex writing and it’s only the amount of time it takes for me to read such things that limits me.

              • infiniteimprobabilit
                Posted April 9, 2019 at 12:51 am | Permalink

                So, BJ, how are you on optical illusions? Do you experience them the same as the average person, or does your unusual visual processing mean you don’t see them?


              • BJ
                Posted April 9, 2019 at 12:56 am | Permalink

                When it comes to optical illusions like “this can be an old woman’s face or a bunny rabbit” and such things, it takes me a very long time to figure it out and I can’t see it, but have to actively search for how it’s possible and piece it together. I can’t see those 3-D optical illusions that were popular in the 90’s, where you’d stare at seemingly random shapes until you saw a ship or a car or something. There are many optical illusions that I can’t comprehend, but if you’re talking about moving spirals and those types of illusions, I definitely see those. I think everyone sees those, right? Like the ones where grey dots appear in between lines, or lines seem longer or shorter relative to each other because of positioning?

              • infiniteimprobabilit
                Posted April 10, 2019 at 2:37 am | Permalink

                @BJ – re illusions.

                That is interesting. It suggests there must be different mechanisms for different classes of illusion. The longer/shorter lines etc (Muller-Lyer arrows or Ponzo railway lines) were the sort I was thinking of. I think maybe they take place at a more basic visual level requiring less interpretation.

                I’m generally quite good at visual things (and maps etc). Where I sometimes have trouble is aural – if I lose track of what someone’s saying (particularly in a noisy environment with distractions going on) their speech disintegrates into meaningless noises and it takes me forever to ‘catch the thread’ again. If it wasn’t for the redundancy of English I’d be lost.


            • Posted April 9, 2019 at 11:00 am | Permalink

              Timing for testing is not accurate for determining understanding or future abilities at excelling at a particular field.

              People who do things fast are rarely the people I’d like to work with. Most physicists I know who are the best take a long time to ponder questions. And when I say long, I mean 3.14x longer than most people.

      • Posted April 8, 2019 at 8:38 pm | Permalink

        I think all the kids are in on it. But they may not have had a choice in the matter. I think some parents may push their kids not out of love for those kids but to be able to tell their buddies that their kid got into an Ivy League school. The kids may care less than their parents.

        • Posted April 9, 2019 at 1:24 pm | Permalink

          One of the kids, Olivia Jade, clearly said that she did not want to go to university and the only thing there that she would like was the partying.

      • eric
        Posted April 8, 2019 at 8:56 pm | Permalink

        Ah, I should’ve caveated my post. I wasn’t suggesting we punish innocent kids for the crimes of their parents. I agree, that’s not right. But I’m also skeptical that the kids were innocent in this.

        The schools themselves seemed to have also (at least in several cases), determined that the kids weren’t innocent, as they’ve kicked several of the kids out, and in at least one case, removed the credit awarded for all classes taken so far.

        It’s pretty hard to be “innocent” when your acceptance letter says something like ‘congratulations on your varsity sailing scholarship’ when you’ve never sailed.

        • Posted April 9, 2019 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

          I agree that most of the youths have been at least to some degree aware of the schemes of their parents. In this respect, they are not innocent. However, I think they have been controlled by their parents. Of course, they could say “no”, move out, start working at McDonalds or joined the Army. But this requires values and character that, unfortunately, most people do not possess.
          I think it would be good to punish those students for whom there is solid evidence. Not to put them in jail and not to ruin their lives, but something to think about. I think this will empower other kids in the same situation in the future – they can tell their parents: “I will not risk a misdemeanor record like … because of YOUR misguided ambitions!”

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted April 8, 2019 at 9:56 pm | Permalink

        “Punishing children for the sins of the parents seems very biblical.”

        Also very unconstitutional.

        Collective guilt and corruption of blood are distinctly un-American.

        • yazikus
          Posted April 8, 2019 at 10:03 pm | Permalink

          From your perspective, Ken, are the kids really free of guilt? They had to know they were benefiting from the crime, and isn’t that a crime too sometimes? Clearly, ianal, but I feel as though I remember that if you buy into a scam (knowing it is a scam that rips off other people) for your own financial gain that you too would be implicated. I could be 100% wrong.

          • Ken Kukec
            Posted April 8, 2019 at 10:32 pm | Permalink

            From what I’ve read about the case, some of the students were aware of what was happening, and some, their parents went out of their way to keep it a secret from them. Of the ones who knew, some seem to have been active participants in the scheme, others passive recipients.

            The ones who actively participated are criminally culpable and could be charged in the scheme. The ones who knew, but were passive recipients, may be culpable for a misprision of felony (itself a crime, but one rarely prosecuted in such cases).

            Any way you cut it, unless the children are formally charged with a criminal offense (and, consequently, afforded the full panoply of procedural safeguards available to defendants in criminal cases), they cannot constitutionally be subjected to criminal sanctions (although the defrauded schools are free to impose private disciplinary actions).

            • yazikus
              Posted April 8, 2019 at 10:36 pm | Permalink

              Thanks, Ken.

  9. merilee
    Posted April 8, 2019 at 7:01 pm | Permalink

    Most def some kind of punishment that hurts the perpetrators. Scholarships a good idea unless it becomes an occasion for them to virtue-signal. Maybe Felicity Huffman is a Big-ass Cheater’s Scholarship fund? I find the SAT cheating particularly disgraceful for some reason. Infinite says it’s a non-violent crime, but it cheats someone deserving out of a slot at the college.

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted April 8, 2019 at 7:50 pm | Permalink

      (I saw that! 🙂

      “Infinite says it’s a non-violent crime, but it cheats someone deserving out of a slot at the college.”

      So do Affirmative Action quotas.

      I wouldn’t send people to jail for tax evasion, either. Make them pay what they owe, and an appropriate penalty on top. If their crime is cheating the state out of money or services, it’s daft to spend even more state money on keeping them in jail.

      I think the idea of making the offending parents pay for a scholarship fund, at least equal to what it would have cost them to pay for their own kids to attend, seems quite appropriate. Adjust that according to the wealth of the offender (because it would be exorbitant for some struggling parent who spent their last buck on bribes to get their kid an advantage…)


      • merilee
        Posted April 8, 2019 at 8:01 pm | Permalink

        Affirmative action is not quite the same thing.

        I’m not necessarily advocating for jailtime, but these parents should get much more than a slap on the wrist. (I’ve always been very supportive of my two kids, but cheating on their behalf, or encouraging them to cheat, would prevent me from sleeping at night.)

        • infiniteimprobabilit
          Posted April 8, 2019 at 8:24 pm | Permalink

          “Affirmative action is not quite the same thing.”

          It does still deprive somebody in the non-affirmative group of a place. It’s a zero-sum game (for a given level of funding).

          But my point is, the guilty parents weren’t motivated by malice towards any particular person. I find it easier to forgive cheating to secure ones own advantage, than trying to victimise some other actual person.

          I do agree the parents should get some significant penalty. A fine plus community service, I think.

          (I agree cheating is wrong, just that IMO many other behaviours are wronger. I have a strong feeling of fairness myself, and I would feel ashamed to cheat and highly aggrieved to be cheated against.)

          Incidentally, there are borderline cases. What the parents did was plainly cheating and illegal. Suppose instead, they had hired a special tutor to teach their kids how to maximise their SAT scores, would that have been okay? Or, how about just paying to send their kids to a school with a reputation for achieving high SAT scores?


      • JoanL
        Posted April 8, 2019 at 9:08 pm | Permalink

        Infinite, I largely agree. Unless exorbitant, I’d suggest a financial penalty of the larger of the full cost of tuition or the amount they spent to cheat (for a scholarship fund), plus court and investigative costs. Plus appropriate community service.

        The idea of appropriate is important. As an example, I once helped with a recreational equine program that matched juvenile offenders finishing a transition program back into the community with disabled youths. My impression was that these kids bonded and came to see that although they were quite disadvantaged, others had even tougher lives.

      • Posted April 9, 2019 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

        Affirmative action is a very different affair, because it conforms to currently valid laws. However, I think that it should be abolished, because it is harmful, unjust and disgraceful for any society that is out of the Middle Ages.

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted April 9, 2019 at 7:53 pm | Permalink

          By “out of the Middle Ages,” you’re referring to the mid-20th century when there were still in effect quotas at US universities on the admission of Catholics and Jews, and an outright ban at many on the admission of “Negros”?

          • Posted April 10, 2019 at 12:59 pm | Permalink

            I admit I was being rhetorical, but my point was that modern times are characterized (at least in ideology) by treating individuals according to their own performance rather than skin color or social group identity.

  10. neilmdunn
    Posted April 8, 2019 at 7:08 pm | Permalink

    How about making the culprits contribute an equal $$$ amount to a fund that is trying to get Harvard(and others) from discriminating against Orientals being admitted because of a quota system and affirmative action.

  11. jhs
    Posted April 8, 2019 at 7:12 pm | Permalink

    Huffman and Laughlin (and their children) have received a great deal of negative media attention. They seem to have been punished by public humiliation, which is just as bad as incarceration.

    • Posted April 8, 2019 at 10:25 pm | Permalink

      As someone who knows people who’ve done time, I can assure you it is not nearly as bad.

    • Mark R.
      Posted April 9, 2019 at 10:40 am | Permalink

      I got a DUI 12 years ago or so and the judge gave me 48 hours in a county jail. Booked/strip searched/treated like scum, etc. The most disgusting food you can imagine. Those were probably the worst two days of my life. It REALLY sucks…especially if you’re mildly claustrophobic. The cells had no bars…just a door with a small window. Cold at night with just a thin blanket. All around uncomfortable.

      Needless to say, I haven’t driven drunk since.

  12. ladyatheist
    Posted April 8, 2019 at 7:27 pm | Permalink

    “Supervised release” isn’t jail time, is it? I thought it was probation.

  13. rickflick
    Posted April 8, 2019 at 7:31 pm | Permalink

    I voted for jail time, but now, after reading the comments, I’m having second thoughts. It’s fun, though, to think of people who are dipped in gold sitting around in a dank cell for a while, meditating on their anti-social behavior. I guess it’s a retributive instinct.

    • Posted April 9, 2019 at 1:32 pm | Permalink

      I find it curious that we supporters of jail time are much more numerous in the vote than in the comments. I guess this is because we get stigmatized as vindictive.

      • Michael Fisher
        Posted April 9, 2019 at 2:00 pm | Permalink

        “we get stigmatised as vindictive”… where are you being treated as worthy of disgrace in this thread Maya? Show me.

        • Posted April 9, 2019 at 2:26 pm | Permalink

          I am not talking about myself personally, but about all who share my opinion on the subject.

          In this thread, we were accused in having “the American fetish for putting people in jail”. To me, this sounds pretty strong and able to deter some people from voicing the “fetish” opinion, and maybe even from holding it.

          In my above comment, I did not cite this, because I did not want to offend the commenters who expressed or supported this judgement. Instead, I took “vindictive” from the end of Prof. Coyne’s post, where he mentioned that he could be blamed for this opinion.

          • Michael Fisher
            Posted April 9, 2019 at 2:42 pm | Permalink

            You said “WE” – which includes you.

            It is commentator infinite who thinks there’s an American fetish with locking people up & he’s right – the stats are shocking & unsupportable. Your claim of feeling “stigmatised” by his facts/opinions [which I share] is laughably dramatic.

            • Posted April 9, 2019 at 3:24 pm | Permalink

              Of course “we” included me, as a holder of this opinion. But because you addressed me by name, I wanted to make it clear that I had not claimed to have been stigmatized personally.

              You say that “stigmatized” is “laughably dramatic”, but I mentioned not only discrepancy between the ratio of opinions in the anonymous poll vs. the non-anonymous comments, but also statements of more than one person that they initially supported jail time and after reading the comments stopped supporting it. Nobody cited any particular argument that had convinced him, so I wonder whether they were convinced or just intimidated.

              Your thinking that certain opinion is right will not make it right in the eyes of anyone else, and adjectives are not arguments.

              • Michael Fisher
                Posted April 9, 2019 at 3:33 pm | Permalink

                Those that changed their opinion to a more liberal outlook after reading this comment section, or were reconsidering doing so might possibly have been intimidated by the views of others in this thread? My mind boggles!

                You have a career waiting as some sort of wacky spin doctor Maya. The victimhood is strong.

              • Posted April 9, 2019 at 3:39 pm | Permalink

                Your comment, again, proves that whoever thinks differently from the “liberal” opinion subscribes to verbal attacks. Very liberal indeed!

                As for those who changed their opinion, they are welcome to say which argument exactly convinced them in the benefit of letting rich white-collar criminals go with a slap on the wrist.

              • Michael Fisher
                Posted April 9, 2019 at 3:57 pm | Permalink

                Rubbish. I can legitimately criticise your instinct to turn a dramatic phrase & spin a comment thread into a place where you CLAIM you don’t feel free to speed because of intimidation. And that’s what I’ve done.

                Intimidation, my arse.

              • Posted April 9, 2019 at 4:06 pm | Permalink

                I do feel free to speak. But I am not sure about others. Some people want to be respected.

              • Michael Fisher
                Posted April 9, 2019 at 3:59 pm | Permalink

                free to speed speak

              • Michael Fisher
                Posted April 9, 2019 at 4:18 pm | Permalink

                You are not intimidated then, but proclaim other souls might be on zero evidence. When you do that without also acknowledging that comments can change minds for fair reasons too, you are probably spinning.

                The difference between the ratios of opinion in the poll & in the comments can be explained by mechanisms other than those involving your buzz words: stigmatis[ation] & intimidation. One potential example: it takes little effort to click a poll & somewhat more to formulate a comment.

  14. Historian
    Posted April 8, 2019 at 7:35 pm | Permalink

    Although Huffman will not serve anything near the maximum 20 year sentence because she is rich and famous, the fact that term is even a possibility shows how absolutely perverse the American justice system is. A non-celebrity would probably get a much more severe sentence than what Huffman will end up with. Michael Cohen will only serve three years at the most and Jason Van Dyke, the Chicago cop who pumped 16 bullets into an unarmed African American youth, was sentenced to less than 7 years. Paul Manafort got only 7.5 years and may be pardoned by Trump. Tax cheats to the tune of millions of dollars get only a few years, if that. I know for a fact that the vast majority of people who owe the IRS hundreds of thousands of dollars or more do not even come close to prosecution. How do I know this for a fact? I worked for the IRS and saw many cases like this. Only a tiny sliver of those people who seemingly devote their entire lives to hiding assets to avoid paying taxes ever face a prosecutor, much less jail.

    It seems that in many cases the sentence a convicted felon gets is at the whim of the judge with poorer people and minorities getting the short end of the stick. Such a system can only corrode the citizenry’s faith in American justice and plays into the hands of demagogues and their populist appeals.

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted April 8, 2019 at 8:06 pm | Permalink

      I think part of the reason tax evasion is commonly regarded as a minor offence is that ‘everybody does it’. It’s perfectly legal to arrange your affairs so as to pay the minimum tax, or claim whatever deductions you can. Often it’s not entirely clear-cut what is a legitimate ‘business expense’. So that creates a grey area.

      As far as the poor (sorry, ‘lower socio-economic groups’) getting heavier sentences, I think that’s regrettably almost universal. The value of their time (and their lives) is perceived to be so much less than People Who Matter. But I don’t think any parent should get ‘jail time’ for this one.


    • Michael Waterhouse
      Posted April 8, 2019 at 9:09 pm | Permalink

      Again with the unarmed?

      Except he was armed and had been breaking into vehicles, punctured a police car tire with the knife and did further damage

      He also refused to drop the knife.

      He didn’t really need to be shot, but, if he had not have been doing any of those things he wouldn’t have been.
      Had he dropped the knife, he wouldn’t have been.

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted April 9, 2019 at 12:38 am | Permalink

        16 shots? When none of the other 8 officers at the scene thought it necessary to fire a shot? Isn’t it just remotely possible that one shot would have been more than enough? [/sarcasm]

        And he was walking *away* from Van Dyke when he fired.

        But then, the Chicago Police Department appears to be more corrupt than the Mafia, when it comes to cover-ups.


        • Michael Waterhouse
          Posted April 10, 2019 at 3:36 am | Permalink

          I said he didn’t need to be shot.

          But he wasn’t unarmed.

          The cop is in jail.

    • CJColucci
      Posted April 9, 2019 at 2:21 pm | Permalink

      Nobody, rich celebrity or not, would serve anywhere near the maximum for this offense. The Sentencing Guidelines, which don’t take celebrity into account, recommend 0-4 months, and the prosecutors haven’t even bothered, for excellent reasons, to ask for an upward departure.

  15. Randall Schenck
    Posted April 8, 2019 at 7:51 pm | Permalink

    I believe we have to maintain the two systems we have here, one for the rich and one for the poor. More appropriately, the guy who managed and ran this whole scheme…how much time does he get? Probably none since he cooperated and turned in everyone. He says he worked the program on more than 700 people. It’s almost as good as being president.

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted April 8, 2019 at 8:32 pm | Permalink

      It would be obscene if the originator of the scheme, who ratted on everyone else, escaped jail time while some of his ‘victims’ were to go to jail. I expect he talked many of them into it.

      It is unfortunate that in many such schemes the most guilty person is the one who has the most valuable information to ‘sell’ in terms of negotiating a reduced penalty for himself. Just a perverse facet of reality. I blame G*d. 😉


    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted April 8, 2019 at 9:50 pm | Permalink

      I guess if you’re going to do the crime, make sure you are the leader and have something on everyone

  16. Mike Anderson
    Posted April 8, 2019 at 8:18 pm | Permalink

    I say no jail time in exchange for guilty plea. $15,000 worth of “Charity fraud” just doesn’t seem like a significant crime.

    But ban the kids from the NCAA – that should be a significant deterrent.

  17. Mike Anderson
    Posted April 8, 2019 at 8:43 pm | Permalink

    Make them wear for one month a sandwich board sign that says “My kid was too stupid to get into USC”

    • rickflick
      Posted April 8, 2019 at 8:50 pm | Permalink

      That’s a low blow, but amusing to entertain.

    • Posted April 8, 2019 at 8:54 pm | Permalink

      Bring back the pillory

    • merilee
      Posted April 8, 2019 at 11:35 pm | Permalink

      LOL. That used to be pretty stupid, but I think SC has gotten higher ratings recently.

  18. Mike Deschane
    Posted April 8, 2019 at 9:00 pm | Permalink

    Yes, but after reading the comments I am less convinced of that.

    A substantial fine coupled with community service seems appropriate, but they are apparently very well off so there is no punishment other than public shaming that will matter much.

  19. Ken Kukec
    Posted April 8, 2019 at 9:04 pm | Permalink

    There are statutory sentencing guidelines in federal criminal cases that set a sentencing range (based upon numerous factors regarding the nature of the offense and the defendant’s background) which a federal judge must calculate before imposing punishment on a defendant.

    When the Federal Sentencing Guidelines were first adopted in the late 1980s, their application was mandatory, and judges had little discretion to impose a sentence outside the designated range. In the mid-2000, the US Supreme Court heard a case presenting a constitutional challenge to the guidelines, US v. Booker, in which a badly fractured Court upheld the guidelines’ constitutionality (by a 5-4 margin), by construing them as advisory rather than mandatory (by another 5-4 margin, with Justice Ginsburg being the sole swing vote). Since Booker, federal sentencing courts have much greater leeway to impose sentences below or above the range set by the guidelines.

    All that having been said, no one yet knows what the applicable guideline ranges will be for the defendants who have pleaded guilty in this case, since that calculation requires a pre-sentencing investigation and report. The guideline range for the coaches and other school officials involved in this scam will likely to be higher than for the parents involved, since they abused a position of trust and were motivated by monetary gain, rather than by a misguided desire to help their offspring. (NB: even at the bottom end, the guidelines range always authorizes a federal judge to incarcerate a defendant for up to six months, although probationary sentences are customary in such cases.)

    Whatever the guidelines ranges work out to be for the various defendants, in the absence of extenuating circumstances, I think that sentences within the range set by law are what should be imposed in this case — no less and no more, and certainly not because this is a high-profile case or because some of the defendants are rich.

    Since I don’t know what the designated sentencing ranges will be, I voted “no opinion” in the poll.

  20. Posted April 8, 2019 at 9:24 pm | Permalink

    White-collar crime needs to be punished much more heavily than it is. A culture where bribery, cheating, fraud, tax evasion, etc. are considered minor violations leads to all kinds of societal ills. What these people did is much worse than, say, shoplifting from a store (not that shoplifting is OK). It should be punished commensurately.

    • merilee
      Posted April 8, 2019 at 11:38 pm | Permalink


    • rickflick
      Posted April 9, 2019 at 12:11 am | Permalink

      I agree. But it brings up the fact that crime should be punished according to legal standards that apply to all. It may be difficult to equate crimes committed by a CEO with that of a factory worker, but that’s the idea. If the factory worker takes home company equipment worth $5,000 and the CEO cheats on his corporate taxes at the level of $50,000, how do you compare the two crimes?

  21. yazikus
    Posted April 8, 2019 at 9:30 pm | Permalink

    I, like many other here, clicked on jail, but am reconsidering after reading the comments. I kind of like the community service aspect, coupled with community college for the kids. There – amongst the masses – they can earn their place and transfer on merit. That isn’t even a punishment, really, but a gift.

  22. Posted April 8, 2019 at 9:50 pm | Permalink

    They should be required to fund a series of Scholarships named for Kelley Williams-Bolar

  23. Jenny Haniver
    Posted April 8, 2019 at 9:53 pm | Permalink

    I weep copious crocodile tears for these contemptible, unprincipled, opportunistic people full of narcissistic entitlement and a sense that any way you can get what you want, go for it, especially if you can buy it.

    O, the humiliation of having their names dragged through the mud for their transgressions. How awful! ‘Public humiliation’ is just as bad as incarceration. Tell that to the cons. But if it’s public humiliation fine and dandy, then, let’s empty the prisons and just publicly humiliate miscreants. And if it’s gonna be public humiliation, put these rich folk in the stocks on Rodeo Drive, and put the women in branks.

    I personally find this entire business quite distasteful, and perhaps I shouldn’t be but I am rather shocked by the laissez-faire attitude evinced by many of the respondents here — they’re celebrities, wealthy, they’re humiliated, it’ll do no good to punish them, blah, blah. One rationalization after another.

    And re affirmative action mentioned negatively in a previous comment; I’m not an advocate of affirmative action, but how many deserving would-be students (affirmative action or otherwise) were and still are denied an education at the school of their choice by virtue of ‘affirmative action’ for “legacy students” and wealthy donors who bribe these schools through the front door with endowments. No mention of that kind of affirmative action. I could say, what the hell, academia is so corrupt as it is, so what’s another transgression for greed or fame; but I think that people, whomever they may be, should be called to account for their transgressions and made to pay a price that is proportionate to the deed.

    • rickflick
      Posted April 8, 2019 at 10:01 pm | Permalink

      I always admired my uncle who had four sons. He had been in construction for many years and as the boys came up he’d help them land jobs on his projects, but told them, beyond that they’d have to make it on their own. He could probably have pulled a lot of strings but, as far as I know, never did. Ya. What ever happened to principles?

    • Posted April 8, 2019 at 10:52 pm | Permalink

      What Jenny said. A thousand upvotes.

    • merilee
      Posted April 8, 2019 at 11:42 pm | Permalink

      Agreed, though had to look up branks. I had heard of it/them as a scold’s bridle. Like the Rodeo Druve angle.😬

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted April 9, 2019 at 12:21 am | Permalink

      I was the one who mentioned ‘affirmative action’. Not intended negatively but just as another factor whereby a deserving student might miss out on a place. But I agree ‘legacy students’ and endowments are even better examples. And ‘sports scholarships’, come to that.

      I don’t think anyone was suggesting one should ‘go easy’ on the rich, rather the opposite in fact, but I think many feel jail is inappropriate for this level of offence.


    • Posted April 9, 2019 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

      + 1

  24. Posted April 8, 2019 at 10:27 pm | Permalink

    I feel no desire to see these women suffer physical hardship and deprivation at the hands of the state. After all, their conduct (like all human conduct) was simply the product of chains of causation originating outside of themselves and, probably, far back in time. I think we have gone too far in making infliction the go-to approach for dealing with social problems.

    • Posted April 9, 2019 at 4:17 am | Permalink

      As I’ve said many times before, hard determinism of people’s behavior is not in itself an argument against incarceration. After all, every crime committed is the product of “chains of causation”; do you think that, because of that, there should be no incarceration. (I have, by the way, also argued against the inhumane conditions of American jails, favoring instead systems like they have in Scandinavia).

      • Posted April 9, 2019 at 6:09 am | Permalink

        Of course coercive treatment, including confinement, is sometimes necessary as a precaution against risks of harm that are too socially intolerable to allow. But it is another matter to place a person in an institution where physical hardship and deprivation are imposed as a matter of policy (as “payback”). It may provide a degree of additional deterrence (though the evidence is mixed), but I do not believe it is right to use persons as means to other people’s ends.

        If people do not “deserve” to suffer, I have no desire to see them suffer. And I don’t see how people “deserve” to suffer for conduct that is entirely the product of causal chains originating outside themselves.

        • Posted April 9, 2019 at 6:14 am | Permalink

          You clearly haven’t read my many posts about how “responsibility” under determinism is not the same as “moral responsibility” and why punishment is warranted. Go read them before you comment again.

          And, for the last time, your argument implies that people should NEVER be punished for committing crimes, including murder, for ALL punishment creates some form of suffering. Since a murderer has no choice in the killing he committed, I guess you don’t want any punishment at all for that. All punishment induces suffering. Your argument is incoherent.

          • Posted April 9, 2019 at 6:37 am | Permalink

            I say only that the goal of punishment should not be suffering. The goal should be harm minimization, with the inevitable incidental suffering kept to the least levels practicable.

            • Posted April 9, 2019 at 6:55 am | Permalink

              That’s enough; go read what I’ve written on this. You fail to realize that “harm minimization”, which involves deterrence and sequestration of the malefactor, may require some suffering. If you sequestered all murderers in a castle and gave them fancy meals, that would keep them out of society, but it wouldn’t be a deterrent and in fact would PROMOTE more crime. Suffering of the malefactor is vital for deterrence. Your argument remains incoherent.

          • Diana MacPherson
            Posted April 9, 2019 at 5:10 pm | Permalink

            This is where we need my Law & Order Spin-off:

            Deterministic Criminal Justice System

            In the deterministic criminal justice system, the people are represented by two separate but equally important groups: The police, who investigate crime that the offenders have no choice but to commit, and the district attorney, who prosecute the offenders who are responsible, but not morally responsible, for their crimes. These are their stories. KUN KUN

            • Michael Fisher
              Posted April 9, 2019 at 5:15 pm | Permalink

              KUN KUN

              I hate that about the show. Well observed! 🙂

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted April 9, 2019 at 6:00 pm | Permalink

                Ha ha while KUN KUN is my favourite part of the intro.

  25. Posted April 8, 2019 at 10:50 pm | Permalink

    If ever there was a crime and prospective perps for which the prospect of hard time would be a deterrent, these are they.

  26. Posted April 8, 2019 at 11:15 pm | Permalink

    I was tempted to vote yes, if only for a month or so, but then I remembered what US prisons are like.


    • Posted April 9, 2019 at 1:46 pm | Permalink

      US prisons have poor reputation. I suppose much of it is deserved and they need reform. However, I think that in the meanwhile, convicts should be sent to them. If these prisons are good enough for ordinary thieves, they are good enough for rich crooks as well.

  27. Posted April 8, 2019 at 11:28 pm | Permalink

    I don’t think a fine would be a deterrent yo people tempted yo commit crimes like this. They could pay the maximum fine allowed and never feel it or bat an eye.

    One year in jail would send a message.

    There are plenty of cases where people have gotten a year in jail for theft if property worth less than $25.00. These crimes are whose than those.

    • Helen Hollis
      Posted April 9, 2019 at 1:51 am | Permalink

      Kim Fox changed the game on shoplifting, along with many other things to allow the shoplifter to take up to a grand. Yes, a grand. It is non violent, so why not?
      I could be forgetful, but I think it was a crime if it went to 300. Now it is open season on retail. And people wonder why no one wants to open up stores in “food deserts” maybe because of Kim’s new ideas!

      • Posted April 9, 2019 at 8:59 am | Permalink

        A misdemeanor carries jail time of up to one year in jail. I do not believe a theft of proplerty of a value up to $1,000 should carry a jail sentence of more than a year in jail. I agree to limit felonies yo crime of more than one thousand.
        I think our criminal jail sentences are too long for petty crimes and non violent crimes.
        My opinion is to make arrest certain but keep the sentences short.

  28. bewilderbeast
    Posted April 8, 2019 at 11:28 pm | Permalink

    All I say is UNLESS we start giving jail time for white collar crime we are ACCEPTING white collar crime; we are ACCEPTING that there is “royalty” for whom the laws don’t hold. I HATE that thought!!!
    One other improvement would be: Where there are fines let them be a % of total income. Let monetary fines be proportional to a person’s wealth.

  29. Helen Hollis
    Posted April 8, 2019 at 11:49 pm | Permalink

    What about the reputation of the school? They took the money.

  30. Posted April 9, 2019 at 3:56 am | Permalink

    I vote for jail time for the perps. They’d get it if they weren’t rich, and throwing rich people in clink might just result in some serious efforts to improve conditions for prisoners in clink.

  31. Posted April 9, 2019 at 7:54 am | Permalink

    I don’t think they should get jail time. The only people who should get jail time are those that are violent and therefore pose a risk to the safety of others outside of jail. Putting these people in jail will have no positive effect but a score of negative effects.

  32. CAS
    Posted April 9, 2019 at 8:22 am | Permalink

    The rich need to be held to account. Jail time will certainly act as a deterrent to future rich criminals. Fines, unless they are a significant fraction of their total wealth are useless. One Nordic country has the right idea for speeding violation and other serious traffic crimes, since they impose fines in just this manner.

  33. Posted April 9, 2019 at 9:44 am | Permalink

    While I voted yes, perhaps the most serious punishment they will receive is having their kids thrown out of the colleges for which they paid so dearly. I’ve heard this may happen but haven’t kept up with the story. Perhaps this punishes the child more than the parent but it is hard to believe the child didn’t know what was going on in most of these cases.

  34. docbill1351
    Posted April 9, 2019 at 10:50 am | Permalink

    First, at least with the two “stars,” they were positively giddy about getting their kids into college through the side door. They didn’t show any remorse, caution, concern at all. They were delighted. Happy. Joyful.

    Until they got caught. Then they “expressed” that they were ashamed, shocked at their own crime. Boo effing hoo! They were sad they were caught. That’s all. So, yeah, they should do some jail time, otherwise by getting a pass it will only reinforce their privileged position.

    A shoplifter in Texas will get two years in a New York second. No mercy for the poor.

    Second, these grifters, allegedly, wrote off their bribes as charitable deductions. As a person who actually makes charitable donations I am highly offended by this. According to a recent analysis, the penalty for making a false $500,000 deduction which would result in a tax cut of $130,000 is around $440,000 – return of the cut plus penalties. Because this was deliberate fraud and not an “honest” mistake, more jail time for them.

  35. Posted April 9, 2019 at 10:54 am | Permalink

    As someone who has spent time in jail and in prison in Florida for something that carried no criminal intent (unlike, I would say, these people), I think they should get jail time. But, of course, my experience makes me biased.

    Still, I agree with the statement that fines are not going to be a deterrent for wealthy individuals, any more than they tend to be for large corporations.

  36. David McCallum
    Posted April 9, 2019 at 12:03 pm | Permalink

    There is one thing that bothers me in this. Donate a few million and you kid gets in. Buy a building and your good for a few generations. It seems that there is a system of legal bribery for the super rich. Use a middle man and go to jail.

    • Posted April 9, 2019 at 1:50 pm | Permalink

      In legal bribery, there is a gain to society. In illegal bribery, there is none, only losses.

  37. Posted April 9, 2019 at 12:13 pm | Permalink

    No. My suggestion is above.

  38. J. Baldassano
    Posted April 9, 2019 at 3:29 pm | Permalink

    I like the idea of some type of scholarship(s) for deserving students which exceeds what is monetarily commensurate with the severity of the bribes. I would think that “deserving students” needs to be clearly defined, and I’m not sure what that looks like.

    I say that scholarship(s) and/or a fine should exceed what is monetarily commensurate with the severity of the bribes because most of the Hollywood folks involved in this scandal are extremely wealthy. These folks are used to getting their way by virtue of both their celebrity status and great wealth. If you want to send a message to similarly situated wealthy individuals, you hit their bottom line, and make it hurt.

    Short amounts of prison time for celebrities don’t seem to generate the desired justice that people want to see, such as punishment and/or rehabilitation. Yes, Federal Prison Camps (which is where they would go) are uncomfortable for those accustomed to extravagant lifestyles. However, they are very survivable; Martha Stewart comes to mind.

    It seems to me that prison sentences for the Hollywood elites only serves to bolsters their imagine in some twisted positive fashion reserved for celebrities, and do not serve as a deterrent to anyone. These folks are certainly not going to suffer loss of future employment by virtue of having served time. I would suggest, in many circumstances, it increases their value.

  39. Posted April 9, 2019 at 5:30 pm | Permalink

    Uh, oh. Money laundering charges have been added. Now they will get jail time.

    • merilee
      Posted April 9, 2019 at 11:54 pm | Permalink

      Is it money laundering because they called it a charitable donation?

  40. Ken Kukec
    Posted April 9, 2019 at 7:47 pm | Permalink

    From the vote of nearly three-quarters of respondents to send the malefactors to the slam, I see that (to mashup Macbeth with Merchant of Venice) the milk of human kindness does not here flow freely and the quality of mercy remains yet strained.

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted April 9, 2019 at 7:59 pm | Permalink

      Perhaps not much has really changed in the hearts of Man since Charlie D’s day?


      “At this festive season of the year, Mr. Scrooge,” said the [one of the gentlemen], taking up a pen, “it is more than usually desirable that we should make some slight provision for the Poor and destitute, who suffer greatly at the present time. Many thousands are in want of common necessaries; hundreds of thousands are in want of common comforts, sir.”

      “Are there no prisons?” asked Scrooge.

      “Plenty of prisons,” said the gentleman, laying down the pen again.

      “And the Union workhouses?” demanded Scrooge. “Are they still in operation?”

      “They are. Still,” returned the gentleman, “I wish I could say they were not.”

      “The Treadmill and the Poor Law are in full vigour, then?” said Scrooge.

      “Both very busy, sir.”

      “Oh! I was afraid, from what you said at first, that something had occurred to stop them in their useful course,” said Scrooge. “I’m very glad to hear it.”

      “Under the impression that they scarcely furnish Christian cheer of mind or body to the multitude,” returned the gentleman, “a few of us are endeavouring to raise a fund to buy the Poor some meat and drink, and means of warmth. We choose this time, because it is a time, of all others, when Want is keenly felt, and Abundance rejoices. What shall I put you down for?”

      “Nothing!” Scrooge replied.

      “You wish to be anonymous?”

      “I wish to be left alone,” said Scrooge. “Since you ask me what I wish, gentlemen, that is my answer. I don’t make merry myself at Christmas and I can’t afford to make idle people merry. I help to support the establishments I have mentioned: they cost enough: and those who are badly off must go there.”

      “Many can’t go there; and many would rather die.”

      “If they would rather die,” said Scrooge, “they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population.”

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted April 10, 2019 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

        We drag our Victorian commitment to retribution along behind us, Michael, as Jacob Marley did his chains.

  41. Posted April 9, 2019 at 8:04 pm | Permalink

    The virtue posturing here is making me sick.

  42. Posted April 10, 2019 at 10:37 am | Permalink

    I suppose my problem is empathy. I simply cannot abide the thought of acting with the express objective of subjecting human beings to physical hardship and deprivation–especially when the basis of such inflictions is conduct produced by chains of causation that came from outside themselves. Others obviously can.

  43. Lianne Byram
    Posted April 11, 2019 at 8:00 am | Permalink

    I think a stiff fine and community service would be sufficient. These people aren’t a danger to society. I think that the whole court process and media exposure would likely be deterrent enough.

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