Monday, April 28, 2008

Free Wesley Snipes

Considering the outpouring of anger about the outcome of the trial of the officers who shot Sean Bell, I am surprised there has been so little discussion of actor Wesley Snipes's three year sentence for tax evasion.

I agree generally with the availability of prison for tax fraud and other nonviolent white-collar type crimes, because these sort of economic activities can be deterred by the threat of serious punishment. Also, criminal enterprises tend to have substantial off-the-books income, and the ringleaders of those organizations are often difficult to connect with their illicit businesses, but, in some cases can be tied more easily to their dirty money.

However, I don't see what society gains by locking up Snipes for three years. He can't do anything from prison to generate further tax revenues or earn the money to pay back what he owes. Imprisoning him costs tax dollars, instead. He's not a danger to anyone. And while the Daywalker is in jail, we've got nobody to protect us from the vampires.

I think a heavy fine would have been sufficient in this case, and it's not unreasonable to question whether a white celebrity would have been treated differently under these circumstances.

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