Different River

”You can never step in the same river twice.” –Heraclitus

October 13, 2006

A Bank Robbery — for Free Room and Board

Filed under: — Different River @ 2:28 am

People often complain about how criminals in jail get “free room and board” paid for by tax dollars. But most of them would gladly give up the “free” stuff in excahnge for some actual freedom. Yet, we’ve heard the stories — probably urban legends, but maybe true — about how homeless people commit petty crimes in the winter to get into the warm jails for a few months. Now, we have a true story — and it seems even sadder than that:

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — A man who couldn’t find steady work came up with a plan to make it through the next few years until he could collect Social Security: He robbed a bank, then handed the money to a guard and waited for police.

On Wednesday, Timothy J. Bowers told a judge a three-year prison sentence would suit him, and the judge obliged.

“At my age, the jobs available to me are minimum-wage jobs. There is age discrimination out there,” Bowers, who turns 63 in a few weeks, told Judge Angela White.

The judge told him: “It’s unfortunate you feel this is the only way to deal with the situation.”

Well, it certainly is unfortunate. Normally, I’d say that someone who does that should be punished by not being sent to jail, since it’s what he wanted. In fact, the prosecutor considered making that argument:

Prosecutors had considered arguing against putting Bowers in prison at taxpayer expense, but they worried he would do something more reckless to be put behind bars.

“It’s not the financial plan I would choose, but it’s a financial plan,” prosecutor Dan Cable said.

But note that in this case the fellow didn’t actually really steal the money at all. he “stole” it from the teller, then immediately handed it to a guard at the very same bank. If he had changed his mind after teh incident but before trial, I bet he could even have argued at trial that he didn’t actually commit a robbery. (This would depend on the details of how robbery is defined in the law.)

(Hat tip: Orin Kerr.)

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