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Jobless Man Robs Bank With Hope of Getting Prison Term:
The very sad story is here.
Fub:
From TFA:
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -- A man who couldn't find steady work came up with a plan to make it through the next few years until he could collect Social Security: He robbed a bank, then handed the money to a guard and waited for police.

On Wednesday, Timothy J. Bowers told a judge a three-year prison sentence would suit him, and the judge obliged.

"At my age, the jobs available to me are minimum-wage jobs. There is age discrimination out there," Bowers, who turns 63 in a few weeks, told Judge Angela White.
What's truly sad is that he may not have realized that at 63 y.o. he is already eligible to collect social security. Got to wonder why they didn't think of that when they did his psych eval.
10.13.2006 3:31am
Bottomfish (mail):
Bowers appears to think he can't take a minimum-wage job. Why not?
10.13.2006 6:17am
Angus:
He can get social security at age 62, but if he does, the amount he gets drops to 75% of normal for the rest of his life.

As to why he can't take a minimum wage job - have you ever tried to live on a part-time salary of $5.15/hr?
10.13.2006 8:12am
percuriam:
There was a man in Georgia who shot a postal carrier in order to go to a federal (as opposed to state) pen--all for the free health care [he was on many meds]. I suggested that the feds should let the locals prosecute him. Why reward such logic by giving them what they want?
As a side note,
These types of stories are sad, but what do these events tell us about how the society treats the poor verses those in prison?
10.13.2006 9:34am
JT Wenting (mail):
Yes, it's a sad world where people choose prison over freedom consciously because conditions behind bars are better than those in the outside world for many of them.

Maybe he could have taken a minimum wage job but he'd then be a 63 year old men working alongside 15 year old kids (many of them from immigrant communities who hardly speak the language).
He'd be facing constant harrassment because of his age, sex, and race.
He'd also be worse off financially than he will be in prison, likely would never get a job at all (because of his age), and have no medical facilities available (while having excellent free healthcare in prison).
10.13.2006 9:46am
Pius XXX:
At least our fellow has been reading O'Henry! http://www.readbookonline.net/readOnLine/619/

- Pope Pius XXX
10.13.2006 9:48am
Waldensian (mail):

He'd be facing constant harrassment because of his age, sex, and race.

That's just ridiculous. What possible basis do you have for that claim?
10.13.2006 10:23am
Sarah (mail) (www):
It's also relevant to point out that it's rather difficult anywhere to find enough hours to get by on $5.35-8/hr. I live in Columbus, and the only places that are doing consistent year-round full-time work for the relatively unskilled are a few call centers (which still have fairly high computer skill needs.) I don't know that his age would keep him from another driving job, but I suspect it might.

The whole system works for me, since I'm taking classes and can't do 40 hrs/week, but a lot of my friends who can't afford OSU's $200/credit hour fees at the moment are doing two or three different jobs (usually a call center plus retail, sometimes retail plus food service) to cover rent in the meantime.

Anyway, if he can't type or isn't comfortable with computers, I wouldn't know where he could find a job he'd survive in for more than a few weeks. If he's a typical 63 year old, he can't do the manual labor in the warehouses (which is also seasonal, but you can do Harry &David in the fall/early winter, McGraw-Hill in the summer, and... I don't know what you'd do in late winter or spring. I did tax work this year, and banks don't usually run warehouses.)
10.13.2006 10:29am
buddingeconomist:
What's sad is that we live in a society where people have learned to be so dependent, so irresponsible, so spoiled that they would:
A) not save for their own retirement or plan ahead in case they lose their job before social security kicks in
B) turn their nose up at decent low paid work (where generally one can find a position that has growth within the first year or two for a smart, responsible adult).
C) Not mind spending tax payer money and giving up their freedom so that they can avoid such work.

Whats sad is this guy, not the system.
10.13.2006 10:47am
Witness (mail):
"He'd be facing constant harrassment because of his age, sex, and race."

As opposed to prison, where he'll surely be embraced and celebrated for his diversity.
10.13.2006 10:55am
Anderson (mail) (www):
not save for their own retirement

Yeah, those lazy s.o.b.'s getting minimum wage! How dare they not have 401(k)'s!

One of the most repulsive things about this country, Dems and Repubs alike, is the fingers-in-ears denial that it's possible to work hard and still be poor. There's nothing hard to grasp about the concept--I assume the denial hints that some vestige of conscience has yet to be eviscerated.
10.13.2006 11:25am
buddingeconomist:
"Yeah, those lazy s.o.b.'s getting minimum wage! How dare they not have 401(k)'s! "

Learn a little about the average minimum wager. No reason to be on min wage more than a year.
http://www.bls.gov/cps/minwage2004.htm


Hard work will lead to promotion or else to a new job somewhere else. Unemployment is low enough in this country that it is most certainly a sellers market for labor - ie there is enough demand for workers that a hard worker can certainly get a good job given a little time.
10.13.2006 11:38am
Jeek:
This could never happen if bank employees were allowed to carry concealed firearms!
10.13.2006 11:40am
therut:
You do realize that minimum wage provides more than alot of people get from SS. I have no sympathy for the man. There are many reasons of his own choosing he ended up in this state. Mainly because he would not work. Wonder if he realizes his SS income will probably be lower than that job he does not want. What has the man done to alienate all family and friends so he has no help? I see old people like this alot of times. And if you get to know their history most were SOB to their entire family. Many were physically abusive to their family members and they end up whinning that no one cares for them. Well they did not care for anyone either. There is NO excuse for anyone in this country unless they are mentally deficient or mentally ill to do and end up like this man. It is too easy to do otherwise.
10.13.2006 12:47pm
Justin (mail):
Buddingeconomist,

I think you might change your mind if you had the opportunity to, or otherwise knew people who had such opportunity to, either

a) spend significant periods of time behind bars in the US
b) be DEPENDANT on a minimum wage or just above minimum wage salary, PARTICULARLY when it is part time work with no benefits.
10.13.2006 12:48pm
ADB:
"Learn a little about the average minimum wager. No reason to be on min wage more than a year.
http://www.bls.gov/cps/minwage2004.htm "

There are lies, damn lies, and then, there are statistics. Your statistics only how many people are taking minimum wage jobs and what their age and gender demographic is. It hardly tells me what their experience is in doing minimum wage work or how many minimum wage jobs they do at one time to make end's meat. Your statistics also do not tell me how hard it would be for this guy to do certain types of minimum wage work. He's 62. How much manual labor do you think he can do?
10.13.2006 12:49pm
Dick King:
Anderson:


Yeah, those lazy s.o.b.'s getting minimum wage! How dare they not have 401(k)'s!



Read the article.

The job Mr. Bowers was laid off from was a decent job, not a minimum wage job. He was claiming that the only jobs he could find going forward were minimum wage jobs.

-dk
10.13.2006 12:53pm
NYU 2L:
Attention Walmart Shoppers...

Since I know there are Walmarts and similar stores in Columbus, why not look into working there? Plenty of elderly people work there, and Columbus is the type of suburban city with lots of these big box stores. There's low wage labor that isn't manual, and lots of temp places that supply employees to jobs that can become permanent.

I don't have any sympathy for this guy. If you're still on minimum wage at 63, and have no one to turn to for suppor and no assets to live on, you have to have been a royal screw-up for the previous 40 years.
10.13.2006 1:03pm
ask a comedian....:
To quote my man Chris Rock:

"Everybody's like 'jails ain't tough enough, jails ain't tough enough, we gotta have the death penalty, jails ain't tough enough.' Yo, jails are f----d up, okay? Don't believe the hype. The problem is, the reason jails are so crowded, is because life is f-----d up too. People are broke, people are starving... s--t, life is catching up to jail! S--t, if you live an old project, a new jail ain't that bad!"
10.13.2006 1:11pm
buddingeconomist:
"There are lies, damn lies, and then, there are statistics. Your statistics only how many people are taking minimum wage jobs and what their age and gender demographic is. It hardly tells me what their experience is in doing minimum wage work or how many minimum wage jobs they do at one time to make end's meat."

Not sure how to make meat out of ends (ask a farmer) but yes the stats do tell you how many jobs they take - if you go to census.gov you can find all kinds of stats about number of hours worked and total income, etc. But the most obvious point that can be seen from these stats is that the vast majority of the 2% of Americans who are on minimum wage are under 25 years old. That means that very few older Americans find themselves having to take such a low wage job, and those that take those jobs when young obviously move up soon after -- they aren't still stuck in a minumum wage job by the time they hit 30.

As someone else pointed out, why not work at Wal-Mart? They pay $9 hour to start and there is a lot of opportunity for advancement there. And they have plenty of jobs suitable fro a 62 year old. They have meet-greet folk who don't have to do much at all (similar to sitting in a jail cell except with more freedom), I have seen old guys in wheelchairs missing legs do that job.

" Your statistics also do not tell me how hard it would be for this guy to do certain types of minimum wage work. He's 62. How much manual labor do you think he can do?"

Again, try Wal-Mart - no manual labor required and pays well over the minimum.
10.13.2006 1:31pm
Arbusto Spectrum (mail):
For those of you who feel compelled to express your lack of sympathy for this man, I would point out that he didn't ask for it; he asked to be sent to jail.
And for those of you suggesting he seek employment at Wal-Mart, can you explain why, in the context of the less-than-generous health insurance that company offers its employees, why it is in this individual's economic best interest to take employment there and deal with his own healthcare expenses rather than spend three years in jail, where care is provided?
10.13.2006 1:38pm
Hans Gruber:
"Wal-Mart, can you explain why, in the context of the less-than-generous health insurance that company offers its employees, why it is in this individual's economic best interest to take employment there and deal with his own healthcare expenses rather than spend three years in jail, where care is provided?"

Maybe it made economic sense, and maybe it didn't. My guess is he'll regret it in a couple months. However, that's neither here nor there; it doesn't matter if his decision was in his economic interest or not. You wouldn't be making excuses for a CEO who embezzled because it was in his economist interest, would you? I agree the other commenters that the only thing "sad" about this story is that so many have sympathy for the jerk.
10.13.2006 2:35pm
Duffy Pratt (mail):
Not to change the subject, but isn't it clear that the guy had no intent to keep the money, or even to take it out of the bank. Should the judge have accepted a guilty plea for robbery. It doesn't look like a robbery to me, when the guy simply took the notes from the teller and handed them to the security guard. The intent isn't there.
10.13.2006 2:52pm
Dick King:

For those of you who feel compelled to express your lack of sympathy for this man, I would point out that he didn't ask for it; he asked to be sent to jail.


But this anecdote is likely to be used by those seeking to enlarge the welfare state. The myriad ways the guy screwed up his life in the past and now will be glossed over by those who would persuade us that this country is so terrible to live in under current rules unless you are an elite. That way you'll vote for more lefties, thinking they will be the only protection you have from such a fate for yourself and those you care about.

-dk
10.13.2006 3:02pm
Dick King:
Can't people still get Welfare? It's limited to five years now, but that's not a problem.

-dk
10.13.2006 3:03pm
MikeC&F (mail):
These types of stories are sad, but what do these events tell us about how the society treats the poor verses those in prison?

It was ONE MAN. What does the story of one (very unstable) man tell us?

Have you ever visited anyone in prison? Do you know anyone who has been "inside"?

Have you seen how prison ages people? The stress people who have been in prison face daily is unlike anything you can imagine. Every day you fight not for simply economic survival, but for your very life.

I learned early on what prison is like, as my family did prison minitries when I was a young man. Do you know what it's like to wonder if you're going to be gang-raped today? Seriously, stop and think about that for a minute. Every day you have to fear whether several men will pin you down and degrade you.

Do you know what it's like to be randomly beaten by a malicious prison guard or prisoner? Or what it's like for a prison guard to mock you as other prisons rape or beat you?

I know people who were members of the Hell's Angels who recall prison with HORROR. If that is how someone so tough views the inside, imagine what it's like for the guy who has never been in a fight or never had to defend himself in the relatively safe confines of the outside world?

I've been poor but never been in prison. Based on stories I've heard, I'd quickly choose abject poverty over incarcertaion - and so would ANYONE else who has a clue about what it's like inside.
10.13.2006 3:29pm
Arbusto Spectrum (mail):

You wouldn't be making excuses for a CEO who embezzled because it was in his economist interest, would you?

No, Hans, I wouldn't excuse an embezzling CEO for doing so because it was in his economic interest. But I didn't excuse this guy's behavior, either.
10.13.2006 3:43pm
buddingeconomist:
"And for those of you suggesting he seek employment at Wal-Mart, can you explain why, in the context of the less-than-generous health insurance that company offers its employees, why it is in this individual's economic best interest to take employment there and deal with his own healthcare expenses rather than spend three years in jail, where care is provided?"

I can think of two reasons. 1) A job that pays $9/hr and offers a health plan, as WalMart does, and which within a year of working there will likely have become a higher paying job as you are promoted, allows you to buy your own health insurance - through the company or on your own. 2) Prison does not a healthy person make.

Also, life is not about healthcare alone. Or so some of us think.
10.13.2006 4:10pm
Joshua:
Not to change the subject, but isn't it clear that the guy had no intent to keep the money, or even to take it out of the bank. Should the judge have accepted a guilty plea for robbery. It doesn't look like a robbery to me, when the guy simply took the notes from the teller and handed them to the security guard. The intent isn't there.

Why couldn't he just plead no contest? That worked for Michael Scofield.

On the other hand, since his real intent was to be able to freeload off the state as a prison inmate, he may actually be guilty of a crime after all: fraud against the state.
10.13.2006 4:55pm
Duffy Pratt (mail):
There are federal guidelines for the acceptance of a guilty plea. One of the things the judge is suppossed to do is to ask the defendant questions whose answers show that the defendant did, in fact, commit the crime. To commit a robbery, the robber must have intent to permanently deprive his victim of the property when he took it. It's clear from what the judge knew here that the guy did not intend to keep the money, so he didn't commit the crime and his plea probably should not have been accepted (unless I'm missing something).

As for the fraud against the state idea: it's cute. But how could the state reasonably rely on this so-called fraud?

A cuter crime is making false statements under $1001. There are cases (I dimly remember) which say that a bank, because of the federal insurance, is covered by 1001. Thus, when the guy gave the teller the note saying she was being robbed (when he had no intention of actually robbing her), and she relied on the note, he may have been guilty of making a false statement. Grins.
10.13.2006 5:30pm
Joshua:
Re: why the judge accepted Bowers's guilty plea - From the CNN article linked in Orin's original post:
Prosecutors had considered arguing against putting Bowers in prison at taxpayer expense, but they worried he would do something more reckless to be put behind bars.
My guess is that the judge concurred with the prosecutors' reasoning. And as I pointed out above, if the judge had rejected Bowers's guilty plea he could simply have pleaded no contest instead. He could even have pleaded not guilty and then purposefully either incriminated himself or drawn multiple contempt-of-court charges at the trial (enough to allow him to serve the same amount of time behind bars as he got). Perhaps the judge considered this possibility and decided that if Bowers was determined to go to prison, he might as well let Bowers do so in a way that didn't make a mockery of the justice system.

The dilemma posed here, of course, is much like that posed by suicide terrorists: How do you deter a bad actor who regards your standard method of deterrence as a reward?
10.13.2006 6:03pm
percuriam:
MikeC&F:

"It was ONE MAN. What does the story of one (very unstable) man tell us?
Have you ever visited anyone in prison? Do you know anyone who has been "inside"?
Have you seen how prison ages people? The stress people who have been in prison face daily is unlike anything you can imagine. Every day you fight not for simply economic survival, but for your very life.
I learned early on what prison is like, as my family did prison minitries when I was a young man. Do you know what it's like to wonder if you're going to be gang-raped today? Seriously, stop and think about that for a minute. Every day you have to fear whether several men will pin you down and degrade you.
Do you know what it's like to be randomly beaten by a malicious prison guard or prisoner? Or what it's like for a prison guard to mock you as other prisons rape or beat you?

Sounds like you are saying he made the wrong choice. My question was semi-rhetorical--what about society would drive someone to make such a irrational choice? One would have to assume the two defendants know that prison conditions are horrible.

BTW, I've known plenty of people who have been on the "inside." I visit prisons and jails very frequently, and if I do my job right, I help add others into the prison population.
10.13.2006 6:36pm
Bottomfish (mail):
The question of Bowers' survival has not been sufficiently explicated.

Bowers can work and collect Social Security at the same time. At $5.15/hr, 30 hrs/week he will make $154.50/week or $618/month.The witholding on this will be small and in any case he will get a tax refund in April of next year. By starting Social Security at 63 he will get less than he would starting at 65 but even so the amount will almost certainly be at least $600; even someone with a low wage history and a ragged employment record can expect $800 or so at that age. His monthly total will thus be about $1200/month.

On the expense side, he can easily rent a studio apartment in Columbus at $300/month (see apartments.com), food will be about $160/month, utilities $150, clothing $25, car expenses $200 (including gas, insurance, and repairs on his clunker) for a total of about $850/month. Even if his job doesn't offer health insurance he might likely buy a cut-rate policy for $200/month.

He doesn't have to go to jail.
10.13.2006 6:52pm
Joshua:
He doesn't have to go to jail.

Well, he does now - he robbed a bank and pleaded guilty to it.

But if you meant to say he didn't have to put himself in this position in the first place, you're probably right.
10.13.2006 7:26pm
tsotha:
I suspect this guy's never been to jail before. Here in California the state's been successfully sued over and over again for providing substandard care. The doctors are underpaid and working in very bad conditions. They run the risk of being injured or killed by inmates who don't have much to lose - so who do you suppose practices medicine in a prison?

I'm sure you could find a few competant doctors, but for the most part they're rejects from the medical profession - drunks, drug addicts, and people with psychological problems that disqualify them from working on people like you or me. Prisoners get the quality of care they're paying for.
10.13.2006 9:50pm
J. L.:

Perhaps the judge considered this possibility and decided that if Bowers was determined to go to prison, he might as well let Bowers do so...


Would house arrest have been an alternative? He wouldn't have gotten all the "benefits" of being in prison, while still preventing limiting his ability to do something more reckless.
10.14.2006 12:18am
JT Wenting (mail):
I'd guess that if he was in a position to try something this desperate he was also in a position where he was under threat of becoming homeless...
Can't place a homeless person under house arrest as there's no house.
10.14.2006 5:46pm