Crime is any act or negligence that is harmful to the public’s common interest and that is prohibited by law. White-collar crimes, on the other hand, are those non-violent acts of crime that aim at unjustified financial benefits. Unlike other crimes, white-collar crimes are committed by tools such as position, influence, cheating and technology (Israel, 2003, p 67; Reid, 2003, p 90). There is an increase in white-color crimes in society. Some examples of a form of white-collar crimes include forgery, computer crime, money laundering, public corruption and bribery. White-collar crime in form of State and political white-collar crime have a great impact on overall economy and people’s welfare. In addition, to provide clarity on the concept of white-collar crimes, it is vital that the concept of criminal justice is dealt with. Different kinds of crimes and the penalties that are attributed to them are broadly grouped as criminology. The term criminal justice system is used by courts, police, lawmakers and other facilities within the system of government in the United States to describe the interdependent components of the criminal justice within each of the fifty states. The goals of the justice system on crimes are mainly to reduce crime and to do justice.
Professor Edwin Hardin Sutherland is the mastermind behind the concept of white-collar crimes. He made a comparison between the crimes that are being committed daily on the streets and he came to the realization that the white-collar crimes are very different and they possess very different characteristics (Wickman and Dailey, 1982). White-collar crime has been hard to define and identify but its effect on social and economic aspects of people is evident (Johnston, 2002, par 2; Sunderland, 1961, p 34). Politicians and senior government officials are some of the people that are most susceptible to committing white-collar crimes. As white-collar crimes are not easy to identify, most white-collar crimes are not reported.
In the year 1939, after Sutherland’s discovery, he decided to introduce the concept of white-collar crimes during one of his press conferences in the American Sociological Society. The topic that the professor was covering was crime in high status societies. This topic had not been tackled earlier, since most of the individuals at that time attributed crime to the streets and to individuals who possess lower status (Sutherland, 1949 p 98).
According to the professor, a large number of individuals in the high status of the society were being jailed at this particular time. He therefore sought to discover the relationship between high social status and crime in the United States. He discovered that after the great depression many individuals became more desperate and that they could do any thing to get there lifestyles back to what they were used to before the depression. Therefore, individuals working in high status jobs in large companies could use their wits, intelligence and acumen to drain the company off its funds for their own personal financial benefits (Pontell and Tillman, 1998, p 67).
Impact of white-collar crime on lower and middle classes
White-collar crimes usually involve huge amounts of money. Unlike blue-collar crimes, white-collar crimes have far-reaching effects (Articlesbase, 2008, par 3). Government and state crime include such crimes as unjustified business competition that force people to rely of a few products or service providers, Bribery and corruption that lead to importation of counterfeit pharmaceuticals, Money laundering and computer crimes. Although white-collar crime affects all people in a country, its effect is highly felt in lower and middle class. Where financial costs are concerned brings about economic hardship. At the end of the chain is the consumer. This is passed on in form of high business costs manifested in the form of increased prices and decreased services. Large-scale tax evasion translates into tax hikes for the average citizen. Unfair labor practices cost people their job and savings while hazardous products cost the average citizen medicare and lost wages. The effects include increased cost of business, unjust competition, Provision of poor products and services, fall of public institutions, slow economic growth and economic crash (Weisburd, & Schlegel, 1994, p37).
Economic classes are, to a considerable effect, a result of white-collar crimes. Bribery and corruption by political and state officials lead to uneven and unjustified growth of wealth (Wickman & Dailey, 1982, p167). Because of corruption, individuals in positions of influence increase in wealth while the lower and middle classes are pushed further into poverty (Brenner, 2009, par 7). Corruption and bribery lead to unbalanced business opportunities. The uncompetitive business atmosphere that results out of political white-collar crimes denies the middle and lower class the right to fair prices and a variety of products.
White-collar crimes in the health sector have serous effects on the lower and the middle class. Political and state officials sometime influence decisions on the health sector with aim for pecuniary benefits. For example, their influence may lead to importation of counterfeit drugs or other health care frauds, where an unlicensed health care provider provides services under the guise of being licensed (Hochstetler, & Shover, 2006, p 89). Such crimes deny the middle and lower, who depend on public health institutions, access to quality health. Health frauds may also lead the middle and lower class to incur huge financial losses in medical bills.
Collaboration of political and state officials in tax evasion denies the government huge revenues (Hochstetler, & Shover, 2006, p 112). Embezzlement of funds by government officers cripples service provision. This has direct and indirect economic effect on the middle and lower class.
Classification of White Collar Crimes
White-collar crimes can be classified into various forms. They can be classified by the type of offence; the organizational culture; and the type of offender (U.S Department of Justice 1998, p 45).
Type of Offence: A lot takes place in an organization. Different individuals are involved in different departments and these departments in return are involved with diverse and unique activities. A crime that is committed by individuals who are in the financial department for example, could be referred to as an economic crime. Deceit and fraud that is committed by those dealing in the real estate industry could be referred to as property crimes. Other forms of crime in this classification are health, safety, and environmental crimes (Lawrence, 2004, p 32)
Type of Offender: White-collar crimes can also be classified by the nature and category of the perpetrators involved in the crime. Offenders can be classified into the social background that they originate their academic qualifications and their position in the company and the greed and need to maintain a social class. The latter is usually attributed to the gap that has existed in the society between individuals in different social classes, which is known as inequality and disparity (Simon and Eitzen, 1993, p 34).
Organizational Culture: Organizational culture is defined as the policies, the norms, the dos and the don’ts that an organization has rooted its practices and its performances. These policies and procedures can be the core cause of white-collar crimes in an organization, if they are formulated and implemented imperfectly (Lawrence, 2004, p 93).
According to Appelbaum and Chambliss (1997), the white-collar crimes that result from the organizational culture can be divided into two, occupational crimes and corporate crimes. An occupational crime is a crime that is committed by an individual in the organization for his/her own financial benefits. It involves alteration of the figures in business statements, or being deceitful to the clients or even at a greater extent overpricing the products.
A corporate crime on the other hand, is collaboration between all the members of a company to defraud their clients and to engage themselves in unlawful acts that are of benefit to the company. Examples of such criminal acts are; fake promotions and publicity measures, overcharging of the goods that are produced and fixing false prices (Simon and Hagan, 1999, p 56)
Relationship between White Collar Crimes and Other Forms of Crime
White Collar Crimes and Blue Collar Crimes
Crimes are usually classified according to the exposure of the perpetrator and their level of skill. Blue-collar perpetrators are individuals who have been exposed to surroundings and backgrounds that are not very capable and they mainly live in inner parts of the cities. They are therefore not exposed to situations where they can carry out white-collar crimes. Blue-collar crimes are also a bit apparent and noticeable and they are often on the limelight of the police and the justice systems. However, it should be noted that from the legal perspective the definition holds no water. It simply defines those crimes that can be easily committed by the perpetrator and most likely, they are driven by passion and as such, they do not demand careful deliberation. They could be crimes against a person, crimes against property and in some instances victimless crimes for example prostitution. For the greater part, blue crimes are crimes that bring about instant and conspicuous injury to society. Consequently, punishment is prompt and more severe compared to white-collar crime (Sutherland, 1949, p 53).
White-collar crimes on the other hand are less obvious due to the use of mainly criminal acts, which have been hidden by the legitimacy of the organization. This form of crime is highly sophisticated because those who perpetrate it are individuals who are entrusted with responsibilities in their particular docket. The driving force behind this form of crime is purely selfish manifested in form of political or financial gain. It is worthy noting that the perpetrators have exclusive and in-depth knowledge it is committed after a careful deliberation in order to disguise themselves and seal all the possible loopholes. They therefore possess less force in comparison to blue-collar crimes. Reporting of white-collar crimes is also different from that of blue-collar crimes. Due to the privacy that is attributed to organizations, the crimes are left uncovered and those brought to light are not punished (Simon and Hagan, 1999, p 78).
White Collar Crimes and State-Corporate Crimes
State corporate crimes are the kind of crimes that arise from the relationship between a corporate and the state. In order for a corporate to deal with the state, the transactions that take place are usually highly confidential and as result of this, the relationship builds ground for white-collar crimes to take place (Friedrichs, 2003, p 98).
Criminology has failed to look at state crimes in any disciplined analytical manner. This can be attributed to several reasons partly because of the complexity of state crime. Second, the existence of state crime has been ideologically disguised. Thirdly the exercise would be furtive and lastly the tendency for criminologists to be co-opted by the state. The disguising can be partially attributed to the role of the state in defining crime. As a result, criminology that would encompass a study of state crime has to come up with a comprehensive examination of the variety of ways that the state, its affiliate institutions and agents become entangled with crime as either victims or offenders. Under each case, criminologists should take an account of all crimes, define the various categories of crime and give a clear suggestion of crime controls.
Research into this field has yielded a classification of activities that take place in government background. The various forms of crime can be divided into the following four categories political crime, crime directed at the state from without, and political white-collar crime, which is crime directed to the state from within. In addition, there is organized crime and state corporate crime. The former is crime carried out by state agents in pursuance of the state interest and the latter, according to Aulette and Michaelowski (1993, p 208), refers to “illegal or socially injurious actions that result from a mutually reinforcing interaction between the policies and/or practices in pursuit of the goals of one or more institutions of political governance and policies and/or practices in pursuit of the goals of one or more institutions of economic production and distribution.”
It should be noted that the relationship between the state policies and practices and policies of commercial organizations breeds this form of crime.
The Criminal Justice System has divided crimes into different classes. Among these classes is white-collar crime, which is a crime that is accredited to the confinement of an organization. The crime is committed by individuals who are intelligent and who have the ability to defraud the company as individuals or as a corporate. White-collar crimes are difficult to point a finger to, since they are less obvious and they hide in the legitimate acts of a company and the privacy that is attributed to an organizational setting.
According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation in the United States, white-collar crimes are becoming rampant and they are costing the State a huge amount of money. Strategies need to be laid out on how to reduce them and it is important for the government to come up with policies that help curb the rising rates of this crime. With concerted effort to fight blue-collar crimes, white-collar crimes are taking over as the lead form of crimes. Political and state crimes take considerable part in white-collar crimes with politicians and state officials being involved in frauds. The effects of white-collar crimes on the middle and lower classes are huge. White-collar crimes lead to unfair business competition, collapse of important public institutions and widening of the gap in economic classes.
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