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May 26, 2006

Enron’s Criminals Should Not Go To Prison; They Should Make Money for Their Victims

Former Enron Corp. executives Kenneth Lay and Jeffrey Skilling were convicted of conspiracy and fraud yesterday, providing the government a major success in one a of the largest business scandals in U.S. history. (Fox News)

Lay, who founded Enron, was convicted of all six counts of conspiracy and fraud. He was also convicted of bank fraud and making false statements to banks in a separate trial related to his personal banking.

Skilling was found guilty of 19 counts of conspiracy, fraud, insider trading and making false statements. He was found not guilty on nine criminal counts.

Now the futility of the American criminal justice system will come into full view, as two extremely bright men who allowed greed to turn their talent into tragedy will be sentenced to long prison terms. Lay faces a maximum of 45 years in prison, and Skilling’s crimes carry a maximum sentence of 185 years.

Neither man should go to prison. While they have both caused severe damage to individuals who lost millions of dollars in personal pensions and holdings, and they had a terrible impact on the American economy and in national trust in American business, imprisonment is the wrong sanction.

Their punishment should be severe, but prisons are designed to warehouse people who are dangerous. These two men, and others like them, should be punished in ways that will enable them to help repay their victims and heal and restore their communities.

This is called restorative justice.

“Restorative Justice equates toughness on crime with holding offenders accountable for making their victims whole again or "making things right", to the degree possible. Specifically, restorative justice sees the need to provide victims with a sense of fairness and access to a justice system that has few formal obligations to make things right for them. It does this through programs such as restitution, victim- offender mediation and policies that promote victims' rights.

Similarly, restorative justice recognizes that communities are hurt by crime. It seeks to involve communities in the solutions to crime and holds communities accountable for accepting the offending party back into the community once his/her debt is paid, as well as providing an environment for victims of crime to feel safe and secure.
Offenders are held accountable to their victims, communities and families under restorative justice. They are held responsible for making their victims whole again, to the degree possible. Offenders make community restitution to repair the harm caused to their community. By working to repair the damage done to both victims and communities, criminal offenders earn the self-respect essential to leading a productive life upon their eventual return to society.”

As a society, we want revenge, not restorative justice, so the Enron economic-thugs will do time. But they spend the rest of their lives helping to make things better. What a shame.

Posted by Jim at May 26, 2006 09:13 AM

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So what have we learned from Enron? The business world and regulators are patting themselves on the back and telling us it’s ok to invest in stocks again because the bad guys have been punished. But Refco, Fannie Mae, and the backdating of options tell us that the bugs are still in the system. A few years of Sarbanes-0xley is not going to save us from another Enron. Read more at:

Posted by: Sox First at May 26, 2006 10:24 AM

I am an attorney, but have a degree in criminology and worked in "the system" during grad school. I can tell you that the idea of restorative justice is appalling to most inmates. They'd rather do the time because they'd rather forget their victims.

Personally, I think it's a good idea.

Posted by: JohnH at May 26, 2006 09:17 PM

Why not make them do both the time and the restorative element? Or better, make them live within the fiscal constraints many of their victims experienced while working to make money to give to their victims.....

Posted by: Vic Chiasson at May 27, 2006 08:08 AM

Yes, of course restorative justice! After all, isn't that what justice *is*?

That said, I'm not so sure all the *victims* are blameless. Hadn't any of hose folks ever heard the old saying, "don't put all your eggs in one basket"? I used to work for one of those rising companies, a healthcare maverick back in the early 90's. It was great, seeing my stock rise and spllit and rise and split but then the company started getting away from their original mission, the atmosphere changed and I got out with my stock while I had the chance. Lived almost a year on the money I'd "made" in three years of working for the company. Within about 5 years, the company no longer existed and my huge pile of stock would have become worthless.

So, yes, restorative justice. But don't cry too many tears for the *victims* as many of them were fools, too.

Posted by: Kamilla at May 28, 2006 04:47 PM


Posted by: Ghost Dansing at May 29, 2006 09:21 AM

This Republican Administration should be held accountable for its failure to intervene on behalf of California while Enron was defrauding that State of this Great Union.

Due to Republican ideology, this administration did not intervene, claiming it was merely "market forces".

The Enron Gang should face new charges in this vein, and the Republican administration should be investigated for complicity.

Posted by: Ghost Dansing at May 29, 2006 09:25 AM

So, will we apply restorative justice for the millions imprisoned on drug charges? Or will this rule be only for the wealthy?

I'm all for keeping jails reserved for the dangerous and letting others work off their penalty, are we agreeing on this matter?

(To be honest, I'm rather tired of the US being a world leader in percentage of population in prison).

Posted by: Dan Trabue at May 30, 2006 05:27 PM

"You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye."

Lay and Skilling may be greedy and arrogant, but we need to tend to the plank before we can diagnose the speck.

It is my opinion that we should be voicing an entirely different witness concerning the Enron saga. The whole spectacle is a blatant example of scapegoating and mob violence. We, as Christians, ought to be on the forefront of revealing this nasty business, not joining the chorus of the morality play contributing to it.

This is not a question of conservative or liberal. It is not a question of economic theory or social theory. It is about the underlying depravity in our hearts, and our eagerness to judge, to condemn, and to be self-righteous. In short, it is about the central revelation of the New Testament, which leads directly to the cross.

I don't see Christians responding any differently than non-Christians to this present-day mob violence, and I doubt that any church in the land has addressed it. To do so would probably be instant scandal, but the message of the cross is a scandal. The omission of this message reveals a bankruptcy in our Christian witness. We are often indistinguishable from any morality system in the marketplace, and just as blind to the real dynamics of our own depravity. Is it not our duty to speak truth to power, even when that power is the power of the mob?

All of this may sound like the ranting of a radical. If you are interested in some perspective on this Enron saga, other than that of the yellow press, I suggest the Enron coverage on this blog:

You may not have the time or inclination to sort through the minutia of the facts. Certainly, superior research is not the basis of our faith and witness. We should, however, be alert to recognize these mob dynamics as central to the revelation we proclaim. Especially when the entire yellow press is united on a story, we should be shrewd as snakes. The Gospel revelation gives us a bold witness about the depravity around us, and the hope. If we keep quiet, the stones will cry out.

Posted by: mwb at May 31, 2006 04:34 PM

restorative justice---will that apply to people who use narcotics or commit other nonviolent crimes? prison should be the best deterrent and if these men knew they were breaking the law, why should they get get leniency? The notion of having these men make money for their community is preposterous...this is America people...we are the capitalist kings of the world, and these guys reaked of the kind of stink that comes with that connotation. The point of their existence up to this point has to been to make themselves money, and to have them make money for others, in my uneducated opinion, would be like forcing a crack addict to work in the pharmaceutical industry. Furthermore, these crimes are the most harmful towards the robust economy this country smelts in. What do you think would happen if every corporation underwent Enrons evolution, and what if this occurred simultaneously. The victim would be an entire country--the greatest country as far as I am concerned. Good business built this country and bad business can break it. Do you think the severity of the charges and possible sentences came from no where?

Posted by: LBRivera at January 2, 2007 01:44 PM