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White Collar Crime Essay

3125 words - 13 pages

Final Paper
Nick Beech
Fort Hays State University

A contemporary analysis of the term “white collar crime” is as pertinacious as various concepts within the realm of the Criminal Justice System. According to, there are a host of crimes ranging from health care fraud to computer crime amassed under the umbrella of white collar crime. In addition, the term is widely utilized by both criminologists and sociologists alike, incorporating a mass of non-violent behaviors related to pecuniary fraud. Beyond the fundamental description, currently there is a pervasive inaptness and disciplinary criticism of the definition and application of white collar crime.
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The definitional conflict between sociology and criminology has led to what has been termed "sterile definitional disputes" (Aubert 1977).
Currently, the delineation of white collar crime derives from a copulation of behaviors and theories. Unlike habitual crimes, white collar crime can be committed by an individual, a corporation, an occupation, or an organization (Croall 1992). The criminal component(s) regarding the intent to commit criminal acts lessen as product accountability and other corporate malfeasance have come to be identified as white collar crime. A problematic grouping of behaviors has resulted in an intermixing of simple deviations from societal norms, breaches of civil law, and criminal violations, thus blurring the line between civil and criminal law (Punch 1996). The goal of this paper is to research and evaluate the scope of the term white collar crime. In addition, the paper will refer to crimes of professional occupations as a behavior having been statutorily defined as criminal. Coupled with an explanation as to why a professional practitioner may commit a criminal act facilitated by occupation after living a life of relative conformity to societal norms. I hope to explore the means, motive, and opportunity of corporate criminal acts.
Edwin Sutherland tendered the term white collar criminal and defined the white collar criminal as any person of high socio-economic status who commits a legal violation in the course of their business activities (Sutherland1940). Sutherland's definition emphasized the offender over the crime, and the role of trust and power in providing the means and opportunity to commit deviant acts (Sutherland 1940). According to Vold and Bernard, Sutherland's distinction of a white collar criminal has been subjected to dispute. One argument is his utilization of illogical provisions, such as "high socio-economic status" and "business activities". In addition, Sutherland's definition of white collar crime was intended to present an ideology that there was no disparity between elite crime and street crime. Sutherland also tried to present the discrepancies in the application of law amid the rich and the poor.
In ensuing literatures, Sutherland clarified his use of high socio-economic status to include persons of the middle and upper classes (Sutherland 1949). Sutherland's definitions and clarifications of the term had no effect in quitting arguments related to his work. A study based on the interviews of federal prisoners convicted of embezzlement concluded that although none of the subjects were poor, only a scant few could be considered as being of a high socio-economic status (Cressey 1953). Cressey's findings paved way for criminologists doubting whether a criminal act such as embezzlement would be under the umbrella of white collar crime compared with Sutherland’s definition. As stated above, the term "business activity" was the subject of debate with Quinney theorizing the term should apply to...

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