Credits to
Roberta De Paolis

Exploiting White-Collar Criminals’ Know-How: Towards a New Way of Punishment

Issue 1/2022

Abstract. In 1939 Edwin H. Sutherland claimed that white-collar crimes represented a real criminality and they should be treated and contrasted as such. Sixty years from that time his warning has found confirmation. Modern era scandals are indeed mainly represented by white-collar criminality, so that governments have opted for a vigorous use of the criminal law. Harsh prison sentences are supposed to refrain individuals from committing crimes (deterrent effect) and reflect the seriousness of the crime (retributive effect). However, analyzing data on final prison sentences from the United States and Italy, severe prison sentences proved ineffective in deterring the white-collar crime commission. Additionally, concerns arise about the usefulness of locking white-collar criminals away. What is the utility of a ten-year prison sentence for individuals who customarily do not pose a danger to public safety? What is the effectiveness of a prison sentence that proves to produce no deterrent effect and does not restore what has been damaged by the crime?
Downstream of such questions, this article argues that a valid response to white-collar crime would be to combine the traditional prison sentence with probation to social services.
Probation tailored specifically to the “white collars”‘ peculiarity would have a double positive effect: deterrence would be guaranteed by public visibility, while the community would be “compensated” by a virtuous use of those skills (know-how) once improperly used.

SUMMARY: 1. Introduction. – 1.1. Defining White-Collar Crimes. – 1.2 Measuring White-Collar Crimes – 2. Materials and Methods. – 3. Results. – 3.1. Theory vs. Practice. – 3.2. White-Collar Crimes Over-Criminalization and Criminal Diversions: a Collateral Effect. – 4. Discussion. – 4.1. The Misplaced Reliance on Maximum Sentences and Fines to Deter White-Collar Criminality. – 4.2. What May not Function: the Risk Equation. – 4.3. Rationalization in Neutralization and Rationalization in Action. – 4.4. General Conclusions on Deterrence- 4.5. What Can We Say About Deterrence? – 4.5. Consideration on Retributions. – 4.7. A Different Approach. – 4.8. The Addition of a Restorative Intervention: a Proposal. – 4.8. Making Community Service Part of The Punishment- 4.10 Community Service for White-Collar Criminals. – 4.11 A Practical Perspective. – 5. Conclusions.

This article was submitted for evaluation by two expert reviewers, with a positive outcome.


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