OCALA, Florida (CNN) -- Actor Wesley Snipes was sentenced Thursday to three years in prison for three misdemeanor counts of failing to file tax returns -- the maximum requested by federal prosecutors.
"Snipes' long prison sentence should send a loud and crystal clear message to all tax defiers that if they engage in similar tax defier conduct, they face joining him," said Assistant Attorney General Nathan J. Hochman of the Justice Department's Tax Division.
This is not a crime of violence, nor does Snipes pose any risk to the public. He cheated on his taxes. Or, from what I understand, simply didn’t bother paying them at all. That’s a bad thing and he should be punished. But punishment doesn’t necessarily have to mean prison. In this case, he should be punished financially for what amounts to a financial crime. Get all the back taxes from him and fine him double or triple the amount or whatever. Make it monetarily painful. But prison? For three years? We lose even more taxes from him not working AND we get to foot the bill for his stay in prison (unless he’s being made to pay that too).
Our prisons are already busting at the seams from overcrowding. I saw a statistic the other day that the U.S. has like 5% of the world population but 25% of all people being held in prison worldwide. It’s ridiculous. And hugely expensive. We have to get away from this incarceration mentality. It’s expensive and, in many cases, counterproductive.