Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Too big to jail?

It appears that in Nigeria some thieves are too big to jail.  Even if prison terms can not be set in direct proportion to the amount stolen, we need to at least entrench a mo' money mo' problems policy, as in, the more money you steal, the more punishment you receive.

Everyday in the newspapers, you find minor headlines such as these two from Page 10 of yesterday's BusinessDay:
"2 bag one year in jail for robbery" - how much?  N10,700 during the strike free-for-all and also a motorcycle valued at N120,000, plus possession of a cutlass.
"Man sentenced to 2 months imprisonment for theft" - he stole clothing worth N45,000, he is also required to pay back N45,000 to complainant or face one additional month in jail.

On the other hand, for grand theft in the millions, we have witnessed several "probes" to nowhere, that is, zero jail time.  

What if jail time was measured out in Direct proportion to the amount stolen?  Here's the math:
N45k --> 2 months + "payback" and N130,700 + "cutlass" --> 12 months  means that* a month in jail is the punishment for something like N10k to N20k, or $100, of theft.
In this model, if you happen to be found guilty of stealing N1 million ($6000), you've got 60 months in jail, that is five years.  For stealing N100 million naira, you're in jail for 500years, or your whole life.

For those who find this too harsh, another option is to make a more gradual, say logarithmic increase in jail time.  It may look something like this:  under N20,000 --> 1 month or less
around N200k --> 1 year
 N400k --> 2 years
 N800k --> 3 years
thus, stealing N100 million gets 10 years
while stealing $100 million gets the offender 17 years out of circulation

It's about time there were rules from pickpocket level all the way to large chunks of the GDP.  Everybody must understand that if you try to take a shortcut, you will get caught and you will have a large penalty to pay.  For now, how many do you know popping champagne about town who properly ought to be in prison? 

* - assuming reasonable monetary equivalents for payback and cutlass , set N45k fine at value of 1-3 months of freedom and cutlass possession at value of additional N10k - N100k of theft.  Note, at present $1 is about N165

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