Separating Popular Myth from Empirical Reality: The White-Collar Prison Experience
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Little is known about the prison experiences of white-collar offenders, despite the fact that the number of individuals incarcerated for white-collar crimes in the United States has precipitously increased over the past three decades. Indeed, much of what is considered “common knowledge” about incarcerated white-collar offenders is influenced by stereotypes about who they are as people before entering the correctional system. By virtue of their socioeconomic status, white-collar offenders are thought to be particularly susceptible to negative outcomes upon entering the prison system—a belief that has influenced judicial decisions with respect to the sentences they mete out. Although empirical research in this area is scant, there is a growing body of evidence to suggest that this view of white-collar inmates is misguided. This chapter presents differing views of white-collar offenders in the broader context of inmate adaptation, with a focus on how media portrayals of white-collar inmates compare and contrast with empirical reality. The goal is to provide readers with a balanced assessment between public and scientific discourse on the subject of incarceration for white-collar offenders who, for reasons to be discussed, constitute an understudied population.
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