Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Porridge Is Harder to Swallow as US Toughens Up on White-Collar Felons

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Porridge Is Harder to Swallow as US Toughens Up on White-Collar Felons

Article excerpt


THE DAYS are gone when American executives convicted of white-collar crimes would spend a few months behind bars in "Club Fed" lowsecurity prisons where inmates roam free, have access to phones and TVs and enjoy visits with loved ones.

When Sam Waksal was sentenced to seven years on Tuesday, his lawyer asked the judge to recommend the former biotech king who once hobnobbed with Mick Jagger and dated Martha Stewart's daughter do his time at Eglin, a 27-acre Florida prison camp that is one of the more agreeable minimumsecurity US prisons. But the decision about where to send Waksal is up to the notoriously tough Bureau of Prisons.

Waksal, 55, is the first of the executives caught in the wave of corporate scandal to be sentenced, and he may end up being one of the lucky ones. He was sentenced under the old guidelines and the 87-month term means he has a fighting chance of being sent to a low-security prison such as Eglin or the Schuylkill facility in Pennsylvania, which has an exercise room and art programme.

Under rules recently passed by Congress, executives convicted of financial crimes committed in the future will be subject to even tougher treatment. Ten or 15 years ago, there was a presumption that whitecollar felons would receive a financial punishment or a short sentence in a minimum-security facility. Now big-time financial fraud mandates a life sentence.

"The pendulum has swung to the other extreme and executives convicted of big financial crimes in the future will face a life sentence - the same as for murder and treason," says New York attorney David Gourevitch.

The half-dozen corporate executives in the justice-system queue will be subject to the old, less stringent guidelines but they still face longer sentences in tougher institutions. Tyco's Dennis Kozlowski has been charged with a series of crimes that expose him to dozens of years behind bars.

If convicted and sentenced for more than 10 years, Kozlowski would be ineligible for a minimum-security camp and would serve his sentence in a medium-security prison surrounded by razor wire and confined to a cell for many hours a day. …

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