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White Collar Crime

By kseniazhukov Apr 14, 2013 2515 Words

Subcultural theories of crime:
White collar crime and punishment

Ksenia Zhukov
Criminal Justice 710
Professor McCoy
Professor West
March 22, 2012

Theories of crime relating to the causes and consequences of deviant and criminal behavior that are subjected to changes in place and time. In turn, theories of crime seriously affect the value orientation of society and public opinion on the causes of crime and sometimes even change them. Various theories are the foundation for any research. They define the goals, objects, and methods, yielding the concept of the main elements of the subject. The subcultural theories of crime are among the leading theories of crime arguing that some individuals turn to crime because they belong to groups that excuse, justify or approve of crime. White-collar crimes, that involve the same general process as other criminal behavior, can be studied in the context of subcultural theories of crime. Any organizations or individuals that commit white-collar crime can be examples of subcultures that can become deviant. In fact, white-collar criminals have inflicted more harm on American society than everyday street crimes; however, the justice system has treated white-collar offenders with more indulgence than street violators.

The penalties for credit card fraud may vary, ranging from small fines to many years of incarceration, but the most effective purpose for punishment of white-collar crime is restitution.

Subcultural theories of crime:
White-collar crime and punishment
To better understand the reasons of crime one needs to study its theories. Criminal behavior has been studied by many researchers and viewed from different angles for years. In spite of this, one still cannot clearly and unambiguously answer the question of why people commit crimes. In order to answer this question about the reasons for the origin and the existence of crime, one needs to expand the search and select a primary element of this phenomenon. Paradoxical as it may sound, the cause of crime is man, Homo sapiens, and more specifically, a person who has opposed itself to society. Crime has emerged in the course of the expansion of the tribal communities, when an individual was separated from the group. In that historical period man acquired a new significant intellectual characteristic, the will of the community. The new creative man stepped up in society and started developing science and culture. On the other hand man’s autonomy was the basis of criminal behavior that was directed against the public interests (Huff, 1978). People commit different kinds of action every day. The laws, Constitution and rules of behavior ensure that everything one does is legal. The laws and rules create a framework. That is, if you violate the law then you are a criminal and the people under previous agreement isolate you from society. All of these laws and rules are nothing more than an agreement to help society reasonably protect its members from criminals. One must realize that criminals do not arrive from the Moon; it is society that makes them behave that way. Questions one may ask: Why does one person choose


to disturb others, and another does not? Why do some people commit crimes and others don’t. If the answers to these questions are logical, we can produce an infinite number of foundations for what leads to criminal behavior, such as living conditions, education, some innate human characteristics, and so on. So if society finds the answers to these questions, then why would it not change the terms, conditions, ways and methods of education? According to Chambliss (1974), the starting point for the systematic study of crime is not to ask why some people become criminals while others do not, but to ask first why is it that some acts get defined as criminal while others do not and why the offenses against the public interests are the ones that are codified into the criminal code. There is a common belief that criminal law represents an attempt to control acts that are in the public interest to control, and the main goal is that no group in our society should become so powerful that it is privileged and above the claims of all other groups. Chambliss (1974) explains that modern society is composed of numerous social classes and interest groups, and those who control the economic and political resources can manipulate the criminal law to suit their own purposes. Subcultural theories are among the leading theories of crime that argue that some individuals turn to crime because they belong to groups that excuse, justify or approve of crime (Agnew & Kaufman, 2010). Culture, in general, is a set of value ideas prevailing in a society within a certain area and within a certain period of history. It respectively


includes lifestyle, way of thinking, feeling and behavior, the nature of food, clothing, customs and manners, and in religion and language. Culture is absorbed and transmitted from generation to generation. It can also be represented as a set of specific behaviors that are constantly changing, mixed with other cultures, other forms of behavior and value representations. Under the sub-culture one supposes to understand the system of social behavior and values, existing apart from the prevailing system of values ​​and behavior and which is still part of the central system. Subcultural groups share some elements with the dominant cultural tradition, but keep their own standards of behavior and values ​​that differ from the leading civilization. Subcultural theories focus on small cultural groups that have fragmented away from mainstream society for various reasons and formulate their own values, norms and beliefs. Criminal behavior is often the result of these group norms and values (Swart, 2010). Chambliss (1974) argues that crime is a political phenomenon, because it is a political process within which rules are formed which prohibits or requires people to behave in certain ways. Subcultural theories are associated with the peculiarities of certain social strata. According to Miller (1958), some subcultures achieve material wealth and are characterized by property crime; conflict subcultures are looking for ways to achieve status in society through violent crimes; subcultures of escape and rejection of this world prefer the usual roles and goals of care in drug abuse and alcoholism. The most difficult type of delinquent subculture is a subculture of adolescents that usually is out of control. SUBCULTURAL THEORIES OF CRIME

The most significant impact of white-collar crime as an example of subcultural criminality was made by Sutherland (1947). According to his sociological theory of differential association, criminal behavior is learned the same way other behaviors are learned. Sutherland (1947) applies the theory of differential association to crimes committed by American corporations, so called white-collar crimes. White-collar crimes are non-violent offenses, such as fraud, bankruptcy, bribery, insider trading, embezzlement, computer crime, medical crime, public corruption, identity theft, environmental crime, pension fund crime, tax evasion, occupational crime, securities fraud, financial fraud, and forgery. In his study, Sutherland claims that white-collar crime involves the same general process as other criminal behavior, that being differential association. He argues that there are significant differences between street crimes such as robbery, burglary, and murder, and white-collar crime. Street crime violators had no link to their occupations as they were typically poor. In contrast, individuals of higher economic and social status committed white-collar crimes and their crimes were linked to their socially respected professions. Sutherland (1947) claims that white-collar criminals have inflicted more harm on American society than everyday street crimes, however, the justice system has treated white-collar offenders with more indulgence and with less consistency than street criminals.

Any organization or individual that commit white-collar crime can be an example of subcultures that can become deviant. The main goal of white-collar crime like


any other crime is to achieve success and material well-being. This is a subculture of organized groups that violate the norms in terms of benefits. Discipline, which allows effective operation, is one of the most important values in a group. White-collar criminals such as those who commit credit card fraud, tend not to use violence because such a lack of discipline tends not to be necessary. Credit card frauds and scams involve ways in which money can be stolen off ones credit card. Credit card fraud occurs when purchases are made using someone else’s credit card or credit card number with the intent to defraud (Conlin, 2007). Due to the widespread use of credit cards, this crime is perhaps the most common of all white-collar crimes. According to (2012), nearly a third of American consumers have reported credit card fraud in the past five years. Due to the onset of online purchasing and banking, it is much easier to obtain credit card information than it used to be. Important information can also be obtained through receipts or discarded bank statements. It costs billions of dollars every year and ranges from the use of stolen credit cards to sophisticated counterfeit or altered credit cards. Unfortunately, loss of money is not the only issue for victims. Credit card fraud can threaten ones credit score and fraud victims will have to convince the three major credit bureaus to have black marks removed from their reports. It takes time to undo the damages of fraud, and the victims may have a hard time securing a loan. Unfortunately, not only cardholders suffer from credit card fraud. The businesses where the offenders used stolen credit cards suffer as well. Banks and SUBCULTURAL THEORIES OF CRIME

financial institutions lose their customers, when a security breach happens. Victims usually blame banks and end their existing relationships. The penalties for credit card fraud may vary, ranging from small fines to many years of incarceration. Punishment rests largely on the nature of the crime itself, the person who commits it, and the severity of the offense. Any kind of violation against the criminal law results in penal sanctions. There are five purposes of punishment: deterrence, incapacitation, rehabilitation, restitution/restoration, and retribution. In order to penalize white-collar crime, such as credit card fraud the most effective purpose of punishment is restitution. On the other hand, the criminal penalties for this type of crime may vary. Most of the laws authorize a fine, a prison sentence or a combination of the two. The problem is that most white-collar crime offenders have no previous criminal record, so they may be sentenced to probation only. Thus the degree of perceived harm suffered by victims of white-collar crimes is compared to the harms suffered by victims of the street crimes. White-collar crime is considered a special breed in the criminal justice system because there’s a long history of perceived leniency for these criminals. Many people still believe that white-collar crimes are non-violent and have no victims (Perri, 2011). When a court orders restitution it orders the defendant to give up his gains to the claimant. Owen, Fradella, Burke, and Joplin (2012) explain that restitution has evolved into a popular strategy called restorative justice, and is a justification for punishment that


requires the offender to pay back the victim for the harm caused by the criminal behavior. Restitution involves monetary payback or it can also come through community service. In many jurisdictions, there is a crime victims’ fund through which the government can provide compensations for victims’ losses. Offenders can be required to pay into the fund or directly to victims. Restitution can cover any out-of-pocket losses directly relating to the crime, including: medical expenses, prescription charges, counseling costs, lost wages, expenses related to participating in the criminal justice process, lost or damaged property, insurance deductibles, and any other expense that resulted directly from the crime. Restitution will not cover such things as pain or emotional distress, only damages that are easy to prove, things for which a victim might have a bill or a receipt.

For restitution to be effective, the offender must take responsibility for his or her actions completely. In the case of credit card fraud, restitution from the offender will be not only in paying victim’s money back but also in an apology for violation of the law or even shaming for his or her criminal behavior. One of the most effective ideas for restitution for the purpose of punishment is the use of meetings in which the parties come together to discuss a criminal incident and negotiate the most appropriate solution. For example, the credit card fraud offender and fraud victim would come together, sharing suggestions about the case. Such meetings are very effective and have proven to be promising for offenses such as credit card fraud (Owen et. al., 2012). SUBCULTURAL THEORIES OF CRIME

Agnew, R. & Kaufman, J. (2010). Anomie, strain and subcultural theories of crime. London, UK: Ashgate. Agnew, R. (1992). Foundation for a general strain theory of crime and delinquency. In Scarpitti, F.R., Nielsen, A. L., Miller, M. (Eds.), Crime and Criminals (pp.289-298). New York: Oxford University Press. Anderson, E. (1994). The code of the street. In Scarpitti, F.R., Nielsen, A. L., Miller, M. (Eds.), Crime and Criminals (pp.238-247). New York: Oxford University Press. Chambliss, W. J. (1974). The state, the law, and the definition of behavior as criminal or delinquent. In Scarpitti, F.R., Nielsen, A. L., Miller, M. (Eds.), Crime and Criminals (pp.31-37). New York: Oxford University Press. Conlin, J. (2007). Credit card fraud keeps growing on the Net. Retrieved from Huff, C.R. (1978). Historical explanations of crime: from demons to politics. In Scarpitti, F.R., Nielsen, A. L., Miller, M. (Eds.), Crime and Criminals (pp.13-23). New York: Oxford University Press. Messner, S. F. & Rosenfeld, R. Crime and the American dream. In Scarpitti, F.R., Nielsen, A. L., Miller, M. (Eds.), Crime and Criminals (pp.305-314). New York: Oxford University Press.

Miller, W. B. (1958). Lower class culture as a generating milieu of gang delinquency. In Scarpitti, F.R., Nielsen, A. L., Miller, M. (Eds.), Crime and Criminals (pp.226-237). New York: Oxford University Press. Owen, S. S., Fradella, H.F., Burke, T.W. & Joplin, J.W. (2012). Foundations of criminal justice. New York, NY: Oxford University Press. Perri, F. S. (2011). White-collar crime punishment. Too much or not enough? Retrieved from Sutherland, E. H. (1945). Is «White Collar Crime» crime? American Sociological Review, 10,

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