The American Criminal Justice System: How It Works, How It Doesn't , and How to Fix It

By Gerhard Falk | Go to book overview

Chapter 4
PROSECUTING WWHITE-
COLLAR CRIME

EDWIN SUTHERLAND (1883–1950)

When Edwin Sutherland was elected president of the American Sociological Association (ASA) in 1939, he delivered to the membership a presidential address entitled “White Collar Criminality.” This concept had never been considered before, since the very phrase “white-collar crime” was coined by Sutherland himself. A professor of sociology at the University of Indiana, Sutherland made several major contributions to our understanding of criminal behavior, including the concept of differential association and others.1

Although Sutherland’s comments occurred 70 years ago, much of what he said then is still applicable to the effort of prosecuting whitecollar crime in 2009.

Sutherland begins by showing that “less than 2 percent of persons committed to prison in a year belong to the ‘upper’ class and were imprisoned for ‘business offenses,’” as white-collar crime was called before 1939.

In 2007, more than 2 million Americans were incarcerated for violent or nonviolent crimes, of which the war on drugs led to the incarceration of 249,500 state prisoners and 93,751 federal prisoners. That year, the states held over 1.2 million inmates and the federal government imprisoned 176,258 inmates. Of these, 20 percent of the federal prisoners and 1 percent of state prisoners were incarcerated for white-collar crime.2 Evidently, the conviction and incarceration of white-collar offenders has increased tenfold since Sutherland first called attention to this kind of offense, though it is highly unlikely that only 20 percent of all offenses are of the business crime nature.

Sutherland goes on to write that it is a mistake to assume that crime is related to poverty and so-called social pathology. He calls the statistical association between these and other indicators of “social disorganization” biased samples because the wealthy and the privileged criminals are not included in studies concerning crime. Sutherland says, “More important crime news may be found on the financial

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The American Criminal Justice System: How It Works, How It Doesn't , and How to Fix It
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Introduction vii
  • Chapter 1 - The American Police 1
  • Chapter 2 - A Brief History of Criminal Prosecution in the United States 23
  • Chapter 3 - Prosecuting Violent Crime and Sex Offenses 45
  • Chapter 4 - Prosecuting Wwhite- Collar Crime 69
  • Chapter 5 - Defending the Accused 89
  • Chapter 6 - The American Jury 109
  • Chapter 7 - Courts and Judges 129
  • Chapter 8 - The Prison-Industrial Complex 151
  • Chapter 9 - Probation and Parole 173
  • Chapter 10 - The Death Penalty- Non Omnis Moriar 193
  • Epilogue 215
  • Bibliography 221
  • Index 241
  • About the Author 251
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