I have to admit to a bit of sympathy for the convicted schemer, Bernie Madoff, when I saw his picture today (he pleaded guilty today). I suppose if I had lost my life's savings in his game, I wouldn't be so forgiving. There's probably something about sentencing frail old men or women that gives it an aura of cruelty, regardless of what these people were like at their height of power.
Even though Madoff and other white collar criminals spend their sentences in minimum security penitentiaries and don't face the harsh times experienced by violent criminals, the fact remains that they are locked up and taxpayers will have to foot the bills.
There must be a more humane way to mete out justice with less burden on the society. For example the government could seize all their assets, strap a monitoring device on them and give them a small monthly stipend and food stamps equivalent to what people on welfare receive and then let them loose.
That sort of punishment is a more humane way of treating white collar criminals and it's probably more cost effective than locking them up in some expensive institution. Their criminal records and their monitoring devices will keep them in check, while they get a taste of life as a part of the underprivileged class of people struggling to survive.