NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Just How Much Hard Time Will Securities Fraud Get You?

August 12, 2002

In November 2001, the U.S. Sentencing Commission drastically increased sentences for white-collar crime, with special emphasis on frauds involving many millions of dollars.

  • Under the older guidelines, a first-time, nonviolent offender who committed a fraud that caused 50 or more people to lose $100 million or more faced a prison sentence of 5 to 6.5 years.
  • Under the new formula, the same individual faces a minimum of 19.5 years and a maximum of 24.6 years.
  • Convicts sentenced to more than 10 years are placed in a prison behind fences and razor wire.
  • Less than 10, and the convict might be sent to a prison camp -- often without fences.

Experts say that the notion of country club prisons -- with golf and tennis -- is largely a myth. Prisoners are allowed to spend only $175 of their own money a month and are required to work for 11 cents an hour -- tax-free. Also, white-collar criminals make up only about 1,000 of the federal prison systems 160,000 inmates, meaning they share prison space drug dealers, robbers and check kiters.

Source: Russ Mitchell, "White-Collar Criminal? Pack Lightly for Prison," New York Times, August 11, 2002.


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