White-collar crimes are crimes mostly committed by affluent people in the society due to their position of influence or occupation. In this case, the rich and the powerful have the capacity to commit crimes against employees or consumers by taking advantage of their social status to make personal gains. According to Hermida (2010) “…thousands of unsafe products injure or kill consumers every year; 100,000 people are permanently disabled, while 30,000 die each year across the world” (p.7). Studies cite greediness and economic hardships as the two major factors that motivate people to commit white-collar crimes at their respective positions of power and influence during the course of their occupations. The rapaciousness to gain much profit and amass great wealth within a short period compels many people of influence to resort to illegitimate means by committing white-collar crimes to satisfy their economic objectives. Moreover, economic hardships have contributed to increasing cases of white-collar crimes that have also caused many companies to produce unsafe products to consumers (Ford, 2008, p.282). Although white-collar crimes significantly harm victims, society, and economic growth, white-collar criminals hardly face prosecution and even when prosecuted, they receive lenient sentences.
People who are in influential positions commit white-collar crimes for they have immense powers to commit these crimes and influence legal proceedings in their favor as aforementioned. Prosecution and incrimination patterns seem to follow power and affluence of suspects as the rich and powerful seem to get away with these crimes while the poor and weak seem to get relatively stiffer penalties. Croall (2009) asserts that, “…many forms of white-collar and corporate victimization reflect wider patterns of social and economic inequality and that there is need for victim-centered initiatives to include these forms of crime” (p.104). Thus, given that prosecutions of white-collar crimes have social and economic perspectives, criminal justice system should consider reviewing and assessing white-collar crimes according to the specific harm to the society and draw commensurate penalties.
Moreover, white-collar crimes are very complex, technical, and sophisticated making it hard for prosecution procedure to obtain reasonable evidence that can incriminate suspects. Since white-collar crimes entail manipulation of figures and take long period to uncover, it becomes hard for criminal justice system to prosecute and incriminate suspects effectively. Sorle (2011) argues that “victimization of white-collar criminals tend to be very diffuse as harm is always conceptualized because it usually spread out over a substantial number of victims” (p.5). Therefore, it is hard for criminal justice system, especial the courts to establish extent of harm and impose heavy penalties on white-collar criminals. As observed by Cartwright, reasonable review of the sentencing of crimes especially the white-collar crimes is mandatory (2001, p.345). This not only involves the appreciation by the district court of the sentences applied on crimes, but also reviews on the appropriateness and correctness of the sentences applied to the criminal victims.
Although justice systems continue to brag of efficient service delivery to the public in terms of minimization of crimes, white-collar crimes remains a major problem. The impact of this crime hits the society and the common citizens hard, as the perpetrators of this crime remain shielded from prosecution simply because of their political and economical status in the society. The influential powers of the propagators of these crimes stimulate the continual existence of the crime as the judicial systems lack stringent powers and laws to fight against the same. Presently, the laws in place do not adequately protect consumers from unsafe products and therefore, the affluent people take this advantage of lack of strict laws and systems of proofing their guilty to continue with the crime.
Cartwright, P. (2001). Consumer Protection and the Criminal Law. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Croall, H. (2009). Victims of White Collar and Corporate Crime. Journal of Criminal Justice, 9(6), 79-108.
Ford, M. (2008). White Collar Crime, Social Harm, and Punishment: A Critique and Modification of the Sixth Circuit’s Ruling in United States v. Davis. St. John’s Law Review, 82, 282-299.
Hermida, J. (2010). Corporate Crime and White Collar Crime. Economic Crimes, 1-11.
Sorle, S. (2011). Corporate White Collar Crime. John Jay College of Criminal Justice, 1-13.