Crime, Law and Social Change

, Volume 51, Issue 1, pp 31–44 | Cite as

Bad guys: Why the public supports punishing white-collar offenders

  • Francis T. Cullen
  • Jennifer L. Hartman
  • Cheryl Lero Jonson


Until the latter part of the 1960s, the American public was inattentive to the problem of crime in the upperworld. Due to a confluence of events (e.g., Watergate affair, Vietnam War, civil rights movement), concern about this lawlessness rose precipitously in the 1970s. Public attention toward and willingness to punish white-collar crime has persisted into the twenty-first century. We argue, however, that due to a series of recent scandals (e.g., Enron, WorldCom), public opinion about upperworld offenders has been transformed qualitatively. High-profile offenders are now seen not as respected community citizens but as “bad guys” whose crimes reflect inordinate greed and a disturbing lack of concern for victims. This typification is conducive to the prosecution of white-collar offenders but may have the unanticipated consequence of deflecting attention away from structural sources of corporate illegal enterprises.


Corporate Executive National Poll Corporate Crime Corporate Scandal Street Crime 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Francis T. Cullen
    • 1
  • Jennifer L. Hartman
    • 2
  • Cheryl Lero Jonson
    • 3
  1. 1.Division of Criminal JusticeUniversity of CincinnatiCincinnatiUSA
  2. 2.University of North Carolina at CharlotteCharlotteUSA
  3. 3.University of CincinnatiCincinnatiUSA

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