By Martin Peers
Supported by Standard Chartered
There’s a case to be made that Holmes shouldn’t go to prison, though. After all, what would it achieve? Her career as an entrepreneur is over. After a conviction on charges of defrauding investors, it’s hard to imagine anyone would back her in another venture. The U.S. imprisons people at a far higher rate than any other country—and of course it is disproportionately people of color who are the victims, not white people like Holmes. Even so, we routinely accept prison as a penalty without thinking through the logic of whether it makes sense.
And it has to be said that there is a degree of unfairness in how Holmes has been treated. Is she the only entrepreneur who has pushed past the line of hype and exaggeration into outright falsehoods? Surely not. Holmes became a business icon, in the media as much as among some investors, because she was a young female founder—occupying a role usually played by men. That set her up for a harder fall, but it doesn’t justify a prison sentence.In fact, it’s hard not to think of Anthony Levandowski, whose own conviction and prison sentence on trade secrets theft was wiped clean by a Trump pardon last year. The logic then, according to his supporters, was that his technical brilliance could benefit society more with him out of prison than inside of one. That was a dubious argument, for sure. And it’s a reminder of how arbitrary are our notions of crime and punishment.