CrimProf Blog

Editor: Kevin Cole
Univ. of San Diego School of Law

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Berkeley LawProf Comments on Sentencing for White-Collar Criminals

From In the post-Enron world, debate is ensuing about how much prison time is enough for white collar criminals, and how much is too much.  "No lawyer is suggesting that white-collar criminals not serve time. Rather, lawyers and jurists are asking what the appropriate sentence is for white-collar crimes relative to punishments for other crimes in a post-Enron world.

Jonathan Simon, a professor of law [and associate dean] at the University of California, Berkeley, said: 'The most obvious comparison for the emerging attitude toward white-collar criminals is the harsh punishment we give to people involved in the drug trade. But both represent increasingly irrational and inhumane levels of punishment.'  Noting that he considered Mr. Ebbers's sentence 'draconian,' he added that '25 years is more than most people would get for rape or a nonaggravated murder.'"

Along these lines, others have noted that 25 to 30 year sentences for chairmen and CEO's like Ebbers, the former Chairman of WorldCom, are tantamount to life sentences.  "'[W]hite-collar workers are extraordinarily sensitive to threats since their whole socialization and environment encourage calculation of future benefit and cost,'" so whether lenghty sentences are necessary to provide a deterrent effect is questionable.  Professor Simon suggests that "'it would be far more effective to impose a lot of short sentences on a wider group of offenders rather than the example model of harshly punishing a few celebrity cases while most potential offenders know that they are unlikely ever to be caught and punished.'" Story here... [Mark Godsey]

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Tracked on Sep 22, 2005 7:14:04 AM