We (US) currently have life sentences for “career criminals” or “three strikes” in many states. In other countries, of course, these may result in death sentences.
Presuming three burglary convictions rate a life sentence
And maybe one selling of atomic bomb secrets rates a death sentence
Do white collar crimes meet similar tests for similar sentences?
I read a lot about scam artists who clean out dozens of their neighbors, taking all their savings, or stealing all the company’s retirement fund, and then getting a few years at most and being still wealthy upon release without owing full restitution.
I think most white collar criminals get off too easy, and I don’t know why.
So I think that just as we provide life and death sentences “as deterrent” for violent or treasonous crimes, so should we do that for white collar career criminals. To make an example and put fear and reluctance into the hearts of those white collar criminals as yet undiscovered.
Death sentence, no. I’m just opposed to it. I’d like to think that white collar criminals get punished aptly, but then I hear about the prisons they go to. Of course, it’s hard to get at exactly what happens to a white collar criminal in “Club Fed”. I fear that the moniker exists for a reason, and that the punishments there aren’t nearly as severe as they are in, let’s say, Levenworth or Attica. Then again, they ARE two different animals. One is maximum security, the other is minimum security.
So, to make a long post a little shorter, are you essentially asking if we should put white collar criminals in general population? If that’s the question, then I’d say no, for their safety. I WOULD say that we should house them in the same building and have some mingling with the seedier criminal element. Prison is prison, after all, and shouldn’t even be CLOSE to a pleasant place to live.
Anyone know where we can get more information on “Club Fed” or a former inmate’s story of what it was like?
I’m not yet convinced that jail sentences should be the standard punishment for serious crimes. But if they are, time served should be proportional to the crime. If a street thug holds up a liquor store and steals $500 while a CEO embezzles $500,000 from his compoaniy’s retirement funds, the CEO should get a jail sentence one thousand times as long. That only makes sense in terms of deterring damage to society. No one at the liquor store suffers greatly from the missing $500, while many employees’ lives will be ruined by the scheming CEO.
Of course the real problem is that white-collar criminals are generally wealthy, wealth is power, so these people can simply rewrite the laws to make their crimes legal. Case in point is Artuhr Anderson, the accounting firm that helped Enron run its criminal schemes. They gave brib, errr, I mean campaign contributions to both parties in the mid 90’s to get the rules about accounting changed, and thus they didn’t actually do anything criminal when they approved bogus audits which testified that everything at enron was legit. Once it’s officially legal, the Constitution forbids doing anything to punish them.
The main difference between white collar and other crimes is that many other crimes involve the use of force or the threat of force. That element is missing in white collar crimes. In general, if you use violence to commit a crime you receive a longer sentence. Holding up a liquor store with a gun is a much more serious crime than embezzlement because the liquor store robber has shown a willingness to kill or wound in order to get his way. Violent criminals deserve to be punished much more severely than white collar criminals.
At least the street mugger has the courage to face off with his victims and risks his neck when he commits his crime. White collar criminals can kill a ton of people from an air conditioned desk with just a couple clicks.
Plus the street mugger is a one-by-one (artisanal, if you want) criminal. White collars are bulk producers. Just as you punish a 1-pound bag corner pot seller less severely than a ton-pallet smuggler, a white collar criminal should be punished taking in consideration the volume of his crime.
I’m not going to disagree with your conclusion, but I do want to point out something about how you phrased it.
Namely, you’re confusing forcing the victim with harming the victim.
I’ll agree that most white-collar victims do not suffer immediate and direct physical harm to their bodies in the course of the crime’s occurence. However, in many cases, they have been forced to lose their money and possessions. It is taken from them without their even knowing it.
I do not like the idea of a politician who says, “This guy gave a lot of money to my campaign, so I’m going to vote the way he wants me to.” But as much a I hate it, I must admit that I do understand it. Not all politicians are honest, and it makes sanse that a dishonest politician would favor the people who gave him big bucks.
But what I don’t understand is a politician who says, “This guy gave a lot of money to my campaign, so I’m going to vote the way he wants me to, even though he also gave a lot to my opponent.”
I don’t get it. Don’t the two donations cancel each other out?
So we are talking about murder here? How many white collar criminals are responsible for the deaths of “a ton of people”? I was under the assumption that most white collar crime was of the Enron type, where a bunch of people get ripped off, not the mass murder type. Please correct me if this assumption is wrong.
Politicians, in general, do not have their votes for sale. Politicians, in general, vote their convictions. People with similar convictions give them campaign contributions to help keep them in office. Anyone who says that campaign contributions are “bribes” is either ignorant of the English language or just plain ignorant.
No, I’m not confusing force (or violence) with harm. I know that white collar crime harms a victim. However, white collar criminals are not violent people. In this country, if you use violence or threaten violence in the commission of a crime, your penalties are much more severe (that is the difference between first degree rape, second degree rape, third degree rape, etc., for instance). Violent thieves should be punished more severely, regardless of the amount of money they stole. They are much more of a threat to society. I would much rather be walking down a dark alley with Jeffrey Skilling, for instance, than with your average street mugger.
I have no idea what you are asking here. Violent crimes involve the use of force or violence. Non-violent crimes do not.
I feel that there are so many variables involved, that it is tricky to make blanket statements.
I disagree with your “regardless”. On the one hand, a street mugger who has a gun is more dangerous than a street mugger who does not have a gun, and should consequently be punished more severely. But let’s compare a street mugger who punches someone in the face and steals $50, to someone who forges a check and gets his victim’s life savings with no physical attack. I’ll never say to go lightly on the mugger, but it could be that the forger is an even greater danger to society.
Agreed that treason is often (usually?) done merely by transfer of information, with no use of weaponry, but I doubt that it is included in what people usually consider “white-collar” – They tend to mean crimes which are purely of a financial nature, and specifically excluding hard currency.
Think of Enron. How many employees were left out on the streets? Don’t you think their quality of life suffered? I believe that if any of them lost a single day (to stress, life choices as a consequence of, etc) of life, that is a life taken.
You might find that too much of a stretch. I concede but won’t the costs to the government of managing the case will compete with social programs on which people rely? medications, food, social assistance? Won’t their reduced lifespans be a consequence of this man’s crimes?
Still too removed with the a climbing deficit to buffer action and consequence? Think of your typical Corrupt Third World politico. Without ordering armed action against enemies or any other obviously violent action. Don’t you think that when he steals some money for his luxuries he is stealing from the purse that feeds hundreds that have nothing else to support themselves?
Think funding cuts to workplace safety. Jobs lost to otherwise unnecessary downsizing and the ensuing depressions, suicides, divorces, crimes of passion, education failures, petty crimes from these dropouts and so on.
White collar crime decreases quality of life for all around. How many lives is a second of life expectancy worth in a country of 300 million? It may not be a bullet to heart issue but a more complicated billiard shot that still starts with a man’s action and ends in another’s death.
I agree. Some people died as the result of Enron it just isn’t as easy to make tally who it was and the body count. Lose of medical care, suicide, stress induced by devastating loss and many other factors would have an effect on all the Enron and Arthur Anderson employees that were suddenly not just jobless, but may have literally lost everything. It wasn’t a faceless crime:
"Thousands of Enron employees and investors lost their life savings, children’s college funds, and pensions when Enron collapsed. A lawsuit on the behalf of a group of Enron’s shareholders has been filed against Enron executives and directors. This lawsuit accuses twenty-nine of these executives and directors of insider trading and misleading the public.
Because the 401(k) plan is a defined contribution plan, there was no PBGC insurance and employees lost the money they invested in Enron stock. They could only sue those considered a fiduciary for breach of their duty of care based on ERISA Section 404."
I say that the orchestrates of massive corporate scandals should be up for the death penalty. The closest analogy is treason. People that commit treason introduce great risk to many people for the purpose of getting themselves power, money, or other things. Money isn’t just a bunch of digits on a balance sheet like some of you seem to be insinuating. They represent people’s homes and retirements and a very large scandal like Enron can and did affect the U.S. economy as a whole which in turns puts a drag on the world economy.
A person that robs a liquor store with a shotgun and ends up killing five people inside only directly impacts a relatively small number of people. A scandal like Enron can directly affect thousands of people and indirectly affect hundreds of millions.
One of the arguments against the death penalty is that people that commit some of the eligible crimes don’t have the capacity to associate cause and effect. That is a point towards giving perpetrators of some of the mega-corporate scandals the death penalty. These people are very bright unlike some of the thugs and the crimes they commit require excruciating attention to detail over a long period. They have to be so inventive that even professional auditors with graduate degrees can’t catch what they are doing and yet some are certainly doing it right now.
I believe that setting some dollar base-line (with rather water-proof formulas for the really devious) would make smart yet evil executives think very hard before they commit such and thing and affect thousands. The amount in question would probably be very high (over $100 for example) and be designed to protect against the largest corporate fraud schemes. The current punishment for these crimes is grossly disproportionate to the damage they have caused.
The only moral rationale for the death penalty (IMO) is deterrence. I am not convinced (yet) that the death penalty will deter the sort of violent crimes that scurrently warrant the death penalty in some jurisdictions but I am convinced it will deter white collar crime. With that said, is the deterrence of white collar crime enough to kill someone over?
Life sentences on the other hand are fine by me if the fraud is great enough.