Should Elizabeth Holmes go to prison?
Thoughts on preventing nonviolent crime from Thomas More's Utopia.
I couldn’t help but look at the photo of Elizabeth Holmes, the former founder of the failed startup Theranos, on the day of her sentencing, and see someone who absolutely shouldn’t go to prison.
Holding hands with her partner, pregnant with her second child, she appeared the very portrait of Roxy Hart, a performance of motherhood designed for leniency, just as Roxy once manufactured her musical acquittal in Chicago.
And yet, Roxy Hart was a murderer, Elizabeth Holmes only lied to investors. And therein lies a distinction I want to address: prison might be the best way to keep the public safe from violent crime, but should it also act as a punishment for nonviolent crime?
In Holmes’ case, it is not even a punishment, it is an example. Prosecutors demanded a long sentence to “deter future start-up fraud schemes” and “rebuild the trust investors must have when funding innovators.”
Whether prison is the best deterrent for crime is something we have been debating for centuries. In Thomas More’s Utopia, the cardinal, incredulous that More finds the death penalty too harsh a punishment for theft, asks what would deter someone from committing theft, if not death?
“If men thought their lives would be safe, what fear or force could restrain ill men?” he asks.
More offers an alternative: