Bernie Madoff's lawyer is arguing for a 12 year sentence for the convicted scamster. His life expectancy at his age is 12.6 years. Such a sentence would give Madoff a better than 50-50 chance to survive his jail term.
Given the extent (hundreds of victims) and scope (ruin of many) of his crimes, many of Madoff's victims want him to serve triple digit time. A sentence of 100 years or more probably wouldn't be survived by a newborn babe, let alone an old man. Effectively, they want life in prison for him. Some would take it one step further, and say that he deserves death. But such a penalty is not available for a non-violent crime.
A compromise solution, which Madoff's lawyer addressed, would be a sentence of 15-20 years, the kind of penalty that was given to people like Enron's Jeff Skilling, and Tyco's Dennis Kozlowski and Mark Schwartz, which did not take age into account. Then Madoff would be an odds on "favorite" to die in prison, but would have a small actuarial fighting chance of surviving his term. On the other hand, eightyish John Rigas (of Adelphia) has been sentenced to that kind of term, which he probably won't survive. But after serving two years, he can be allowed to return home if and when a prison doctor determines that he has less than 90 days to live.
The presiding judge, Denny Chin, has a reputation of being a wise judge. What he sentences Madoff to, and why, should be instructive.