Students Look for Ethics in Criminal Behavior

By Corwin, Judy; McCormick, Blaine | Baylor Business Review, Fall 1999 | Go to article overview

Students Look for Ethics in Criminal Behavior


Corwin, Judy, McCormick, Blaine, Baylor Business Review


Last spring, students in Dr. Blaine McCormick's Strategic Management & Business Policy course visited a state prison to discuss ethics and whitecollar crime with two female inmates. The following are excerpts from their comments made at the William P. Hobby Unit of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice in Marlin. The women told students about how they grew up, why they are in prison, and what they have learned. Both were very well spoken and have sought to improve themselves by taking advantage of the prison library and classes taught by Mr. Bud Gossett, then principal of the Hobby Unit School.

Ms. Pearson - Document Creation & Embezzlement "My name is Latonya Pearson. I'm 30 years old, divorced, the mother of four, and doing a 20-year sentence for theft and passing bad checks. You learn a lot while you're in prison-like there's a big, big difference between serving a 2-month sentence and a 20-year sentence! My kids can only call me once every 90 days, but we correspond weekly.

"Even though I grew up in a middle-class Christian family and knew what was right and wrong, I began stealing when I was ten. My mother always made us go to church, but when we took money from the offering plate in Sunday school, she didn't discipline us. She was real strict, but it was over things like cleaning up or leaving home without permission.

"I've had one year of college, but my mother and father are both college graduates. They divorced when I was 14 and already on juvenile probation. 'Stealing' became my addiction because it could get me whatever I wanted. By the time I was working as a supervisor in the Postmaster's Office in Houston, I thought I was 'on top of my game.' I had access to all kinds of things. Did I think I'd get caught? No. No criminal believes he'll get caught.

"I would create different 'personalities' that gave me the confidence I needed to go into a store and buy something on someone else's money. I lavished gifts on myself and others. But Mr. Gossett pointed out that there is a difference between 'taking money and making money.' My time here has helped me learn the difference, and I have strengthened my relationship with God so my life now has purpose."

Ms. Webb-Credit Card Theft

"My name is Barbara Webb. I was an only child, grew up in a good home in Chicago, went to a Catholic school, and was spoiled by my family. I am serving a 45-year sentence for credit card theft and will be up for parole next year. When I entered prison 19 years ago, my kids were 6 and 8. Today, they are 24 and 26 and both have college degrees!

"In 1977, 1 became part of a theft ring that started in Chicago and spread from New York to Virginia. At one point we had up to 500 people working with us all over the United States. We always had someone working inside of a bank or a major department store who could get a credit catalog with names and addresses. We even had a machine to make our own credit cards!

"We knew people in prominent places. I could buy a $36,000 mink coat and sell it to some judge or attorney that I knew for $25,000. We didn't overlook anybody. We were low profile, had titles and were good hard working people whose 'jobs' were getting merchandise and turning a quick sale on it.

"I got busted using a trucker's credit card that had been out of date for two years! A girlfriend 'gave me up' to get a better deal for her own prison time. So, for a $666 pair of pink suede knickerbockers, I'm doing 45 years! I was offered an 8-year sentence in a plea bargain but it meant that I would have to 'give up' the ring, and I couldn't do that. Sometimes you have to bite the bullet yourself

"If I get out next year, I have no intention of going back into something illegal. But I will still socialize with those people because they're my friends. I can't break that friendship and the code of honor. They have taken good care of my kids-they've had vacations, clothes, college, and other things.

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