This study examines the impact of punishment policies on the criminal careers of almost 1,000 offenders convicted of white-collar crimes in seven United States District Courts between 1978 and 1978.
Using detailed data on offender backgrounds and the nature of sanctions, as well as information on subsequent criminal behavior reported in FBI records, the effect of imprisonment on recorded criminal behavior was assessed over a 10-year followup period. Findings do not provide evidence of a specific deterrent effect of imprisonment on white- collar criminals. Using a quasi-experimental research design, groups of offenders that were alike in terms of factors leading to sentences of imprisonment were compared. Results revealed that those sentenced to prison and those not fit similar models of recidivism. Results indicated that the specific deterrence resulting from a prison sanction for these relatively established offenders appears to be no greater than that found among their common-crime counterparts. Figures, tables, and 83 references (Author abstract modified)