Before he was an inmate, Bernard Kerik was the New York police commissioner. In those days he thought locking up criminals was a good thing, but his perspective has changed after a three-year prison stint of his own.
In an interview with the “Today” show on Friday, Kerik noted that the prison system is severely lacking, and is more likely to turn people to more crime than to mold them into reformed citizens.
Kerik was sentenced to four years in prison in 2010 after accepting a plea bargain for charges of tax evasion and lying to federal officials. He was released in May 2013 after three years, serving the rest of his time on house arrest.
Kerik noted his unique perspective coming from the other side of law enforcement, saying, “No one in the history of our country has ever been in the system with my background, no one. ... You have to be on the other side of the bars. You have to see what it's like to be a victim of the system, so to speak. There's no way to do that from the other side."
In the interview, Kerik spoke out against mandatory sentencing, saying that penalizing petty criminals with overblown sentences does more harm than good.
Said Kerik, “Anybody that thinks that you can take these young black men out of Baltimore and D.C., give them a ten-year sentence for five grams of cocaine, and then believe that they're going to return to society a better person ten years from now, when you give them no life improvement skills, when you give them no real rehabilitation. That is not benefiting society.”
Kerik was charged with eight felony convictions after admitting that he had deceived the White House, falsified tax returns and lied about a construction work performed by a contractor with ties to the mafia.
Upon his release, Kerik’s friend Al Manzo told the New York Daily News, “He did his time like a man. I think he deserves a chance to get his life back on track.”