December 15, 2006
Where White Collar Criminals Wind Up
The past year has seen the imprisonment of a number of high-profile white collar defendants, including former CEOs like Jeffrey Skilling and Bernie Ebbers, and former political heavyweights like Representative Randy "Duke" Cunningham and Jack Abramoff. The prison terms they and others received has increased the awareness of what a change prison life is for white collar defendants. There is an interesting article from the New York Law Journal (available on Law.Com here) about the process for securing a favorable prison environment for the federal white collar defendant who has been convicted (either after trial or by plea) and faces a prison term. Life in the federal prison system is a world apart from the corporate world, and the author, JaneAnne Murray, makes the point that prison is a dehumanizing experience, which may be the greatest shock to the prisoner who has never seen the inside of a jail except perhaps briefly on the day the person was arraigned. The article concludes:
For many prison inmates, the quality of the time they serve is as important as the length of the sentence. Time will certainly pass faster for most, for example, if one is in the relatively freer and less volatile environment of a camp facility. Thus, in federal criminal cases, once the client has pleaded guilty or has been convicted after trial, it is in the client's interest for the defense lawyer to adopt the dual strategy of mitigating the sentencing exposure and simultaneously positioning the client for a favorable prison placement. This is true even if the likelihood of incarceration appears to be remote. Once a prison sentence has been pronounced, it is often too late to take the measures that can make that sentence more palatable.
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