Maybe double-digit prison sentences will get politicians' attention.
While sentencing another corrupt Chicago politician last week, U.S. Judge Gary Feinerman lamented the fact that the state's corrupt public officials aren't getting the message about the dangers of engaging in criminality.
Because of that, the judge concluded an extra-harsh sentence was necessary. So Feinerman last week imposed a 10-1/2-year sentence on a former Chicago alderman who was involved in a bribery scheme.
Feinerman is absolutely correct — harsh sentences are necessary both to punish and deter. The state's corrupt politicians have for too many years received relatively short sentences that seem to have very little deterrent effect on our political criminal elite. There are exceptions, including the 13-year sentence for former Gov. Rod Blagojevich. But white-collar criminals, in general, get too many undeserved breaks.
In this case, the target of Feinerman's wrath is former Alderman Ambrosio Medrano. He's Exhibit A for the proposition that some politicians are interested only in enriching themselves.
Medrano was convicted in the 1990s of bribery and served a stint in prison. When he got out of prison, Medrano sought public office again but was blocked from doing so by a state law barring felons from running for office.
So Medrano started chiseling from outside, only to be caught up in another illegal scheme involving bribery to influence a contract at Stroger Hospital.
On Monday, he was sentenced to an additional 2-1/2 years in connection with a separate hospital-related bribery scheme.
Medrano's three public corruption convictions demonstrate that he's incorrigible. But like too many other pols, the 60-year-old Medrano also was insufficiently fearful of the consequences of breaking the law.
Feinerman said a harsh sentence will alter the "cost-benefit calculation" for government officials tempted to sell out the public interest. It's hard to keep a corrupt Illinois politician down, but the possibility of serious punishment may give them food for thought.