U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

SENTENCING THE WHITE-COLLAR OFFENDER

NCJ Number
68003
Author(s)
K MANN, A SARAT, S WHEELER
Date Published
January 1980
Length
22 pages
Annotation
BASED UPON INTERVIEWS WITH 51 FEDERAL DISTRICT JUDGES IN FEDERAL DISTRICTS, THIS PAPER EXAMINES SENTENCING POLICIES FOR WHITE-COLLAR OFFENDERS.
Abstract
INTERVIEWS WERE DESIGNED TO HAVE EACH JUDGE EXPLAIN SENTENCING VIEWS ON THE BASIS OF RECENT WHITE-COLLAR CASES. GENERALLY, THE JUDGES EXPRESSED A TENSION IN SENTENCING BASED ON A CONCERN TO PROVIDE GENERAL DETERRENCE THROUGH SENTENCING AND A DESIRE TO INDIVIDUALIZE SENTENCING BY TAKING INTO ACCOUNT OFFENDER ATTRIBUTES AND BACKGROUND. IN TRYING TO RESOLVE THIS TENSION, MANY JUDGES ARRIVED AT SENTENCES THEY PERCEIVED AS HAVING A DETERRENT EFFECT, BUT THEY DID NOT IMPOSE EXTENDED PRISON STAYS. FAMILY, OCCUPATIONAL, AND COMMUNITY TIES OF OFFENDERS, ALONG WITH ABSENCE OF PRIOR OFFENSES, TENDED TO INFLUENCE JUDGES' SENTENCING DECISIONS REGARDING FINES, PROBATION, AND/OR SHORT PRISON TERMS. THE CONVICTION'S UNDERMINING OF OFFENDERS OCCUPATIONAL STATUS AND MARKETABILITY, ALONG WITH STIGMATIZATION IN THE COMMUNITY, WERE CONSIDERED BY MANY JUDGES TO CONSTITUTE A UNIQUE PUNISHMENT FOR WHITE-COLLAR OFFENDERS. THIS MADE THE ADDED IMPOSITION OF IMPRISONMENT UNNECESSARY. VICTIM COMPENSATION AND REPARATIONS WERE ALSO PRIMARY IN SENTENCING POLICY. THE INTERVIEWS REPEATEDLY EVIDENCED THE JUDGES' EMPATHY FOR OFFENDERS WHOSE SOCIOECONOMIC POSITION WAS SIMILAR TO THEIR OWN. THE DISRUPTION AND PAIN OF IMPRISONMENT WAS VIEWED BY THE JUDGES AS BEING MUCH GREATER FOR THE TYPICAL WHITE-COLLAR OFFENDER THAN FOR THE STREET OFFENDER. CLEARLY, SPECIAL FACTORS ARE BROUGHT INTO PLAY WHEN CONSIDERING SENTENCING FOR WHITE-COLLAR OFFENDERS. FOOTNOTES ARE PROVIDED. (RCB)

Date Published: January 1, 1980