“CLUB FED” AND THE SENTENCING OF WHITE‐COLLAR OFFENDERS BEFORE AND AFTER WATERGATE

JOHN HAGAN*, ALBERTO PALLONI

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations

Abstract

This paper counterposes the common assumption that criminal justice systems are resistant to reform with the widespread belief that the sentencing of white‐collar offenders became more severe after Watergate. It is argued that readjustments may be more more common than actual reforms in criminal justice systems. This paper provides an example of how such processes of readjustment can be explored in the context of sentencing decisions made before and after the unique historical experience of Watergate. It is shown with data from one of America's most prominent federal district courts that changes did occur in sentences imposed before (in 1973) and after (1975) Watergate, but with offsetting results: after Watergate, persons convicted of white‐collar crimes were more likely to be sentenced to prison, but for shorter periods of time, than less‐educated persons convicted of common crimes. Using a technique that corrects for sample selection processes, these effects are shown to cancel one another out. Examples are provided of the token kinds of prison sentences assigned after Watergate to white‐collar offenders in several highly publicized cases and areas of enforcement.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)603-621
Number of pages19
JournalCriminology
Volume24
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 1986

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Law

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