NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Longer Sentences For White Collar Crimes

April 26, 2001

The U.S. Sentencing Commission is preparing to recommend to Congress longer prison terms for people convicted of insider trading, fraud, tax evasion and similar offenses. Experts say that current guidelines allow judges to use different criteria in similar cases -- and arrive at vastly different opinions and sentences as a result. The new recommendations attempt to make sentences in such cases more uniform.

Last year, about 10,000 people were sentenced to federal prison for financial crimes.

  • The new recommendations call for people convicted of insider trading, tax crimes or fraud in excess of $1 million to face a maximum of 63 months in prison.
  • The current maximum for fraud and insider trading is 37 months, with 46 months for tax cheating.
  • Federal inmates must serve 85 percent of their sentences.
  • The guidelines will go into effect Nov. 1, unless Congress specifically rejects them.

Michael Rustigan, a criminology professor at San Francisco State University, observes that as the nation grows older, violent crime -- which he calls "a young man's game" -- is on the wane, being replaced by financial crime. Crime is shifting "from the streets to the suites," he remarks.

Source: Gary Fields, "Financial Crimes Merit More Prison, Judicial Panel Says," Wall Street Journal, April 26, 2001.

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