It's twenty-three months later and fallen football star Michael Vick has emerged from federal prison trading lockup and license plates for home confinement and a minimum wage construction job. I remember two years ago when the dog-fighting drama ensued—as an animal lover, I wanted the "villain" locked and the key tossed. In retrospect, Vick should have never gone to prison.
No, no, this isn't me sympathizing with a troubled black male whose lack of a father figure thrust him into very bad things. This is Free Speech considering the economic impact of imprisoning a revenue-generator and making tax-payers foot the bill.
A jailed Michael Vick deprives the NFL, the city of Atlanta, and merchandise vendors of tens of millions of dollars of revenue. This doesn't even take into account all of the derivative markets that Vick impacts—concessions vendors, local restaurants, etc. What happens instead? Tax-payers finance a trial and his 23-month sentence in a federal penitentiary. Well, as you're likely well aware, America is BROKE, not just on the federal level, but on the state level as well. California, for example, raised its sales tax by a full point, has put its state workers on furloughs, and is considering selling off state monuments and even releasing prisoners because it can't afford to detain them. The fiscally responsible retribution is not jail-time, but a hefty fine...a fine so swollen and compelling that Vick would never even want to pet a dog again. Assuming you could levy a fine equal to one year's salary, you're looking at a $7 million+ collection. This also relies on the maybe unrealistic assumption that the NFL cooperates by not suspending Vick and that some damn good PR spin could be generated to win the favor of fans. If so, the public is relieved of a HUGE tab and goes from being in the red to being millions of dollars in the black. Further, the revenue train keeps chugging with merchandise, ticket, broadcast, and media sales.
Clearly, this sets a precedent that challenges the integrity of our judicial system and poses an ethical dilemma, but I think in these extreme economic conditions, such solutions must be considered. Let's invest in schools and health care rather than financing our fulfillment from putting a dog-fighter in prison.