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Determining the penalties for white collar crime

The notion of "Club Fed" refers to federal prisons that are perceived to be more like resorts than penitentiaries, with those "detained" inside enjoying the same lavish amenities they did on the outside. The common school of thought is that anyone convicted of a white collar crime in New York would be sent to such a place. While there are different levels of security in the prison system (which can be reflected in what is available to inmates), the notion that all white collar criminal activity earns one an all-expenses paid trip to Club Fed is simply false. 

Data compiled by the Federal Bureau of Investigation shows the arrest rate for white collar crime to be 5,317 for every 100,000 people. Those 5317 offenses will likely differ in gravity and scope, and the penalties imposed for them may show that difference. Many white collar offenses are prosecuted at the federal level, and even those that are not may still follow federal sentencing guidelines. The question then becomes what are such guidelines? 

Per Section 3553 of the Code of Federal Procedure, the following factors are to be determined when imposing a sentence: 

  • The nature and circumstances of the offense, as well as the history of the defendant
  • The need for the sentence to reflect the seriousness of the offense, to serve as a deterrent to similar conduct, and to protect the public from the defendant while also offering the defendant the chance to rehabilitate
  • The types of sentences available in the established sentencing range for the particular category of the offense in question
  • The need to avoid sentencing disparities between defendants with similar profiles accused of similar offenses
  • The need to provide restitution to victims

Following these guidelines may all but ensure that few sentences for white collar crime (if any) will be the same. 

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