Nov 19

Recent Study Shows White-Collar Criminals Adjust Fine to Prison Life: True?

11/21/13 Update:  The Giudices pled not guilty to the new charges on November 20, 2013.

As every Real Housewives of New Jersey fan knows, Teresa and her husband Joe Giudice are facing serious allegations in a 39-count indictment for inter alia, conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, making false statements on loan applications, and bankruptcy fraud.  They have pled not guilty, are out on $500,000 bail each, and Teresa is standing strong.  In her September interview with Andy Cohen on Bravo’s Watch What Happens Live, she explained, “I’m just focusing on my family, being a wife, a mom to my four beautiful daughters.”

Yesterday, the Giudices were indicted on additional charges:  one count of bank fraud and one count of loan application fraud.  They are scheduled to be arraigned tomorrow.

If convicted on all of the charges, the Giudices could be sentenced to significant time in jail—up to 50 years.  And, if worse comes to worse, and Italian chef and resident table flipper* Teresa does face time in prison, a recent study suggests that she will have no more problems adjusting to prison than those in general population if the study’s general results are true and are applied broadly.   In fact, this research from the University of Cincinnati suggests that white-collar prisoners seem to do better:  they were more likely to report having made friends in prison and less likely to report general difficulties.

One common fear for white collar offenders headed to prison is the threat of violence.  Piper Kerman’s memoir “Orange is the New Black” recounting her year in federal prison at Danbury, Connecticut and hit Netflix tv-show adaptation have brought national attention to her experience in the system.  Kerman explained that before she served her time, her biggest fear was “violence” but that was “simply not what I found” and described her fear as “misplaced.”  The University of Cincinnati study supports that Kerman’s experience was not uncommon for white collar offenders because “[t]here is also evidence to suggest white-collar offenders may be less in need of safety in the prison.”

According to the authors of the study, the same skills that helped a white collar criminal commit his or her crimes may be responsible for their ability to smoothly serve the time.  Indeed, “factors associated with white-collar offending may actually mitigate the likelihood of experiencing problems in prison” and “[f]actors like intelligences, positive self-concept and self-efficacy, and the ability to understand and navigate bureaucracies may help temper the impact of incarceration.”

However, this study proclaiming such good news for white collar prisoners only comes from surveys of approximately 369 male prisoners in two federal prisons in Terre Haute, Indiana.  One was a medium-security prison and one was a low-security prison.  Participation in the study was voluntary, which could mean that white collar prisoners with negative experiences during their time just simply opted out of the study.  Thus, it is difficult to rely on such a study with broad propositions until much more extensive and detailed research is conducted on the experience of white collar criminals.

*Just for fun, check out Breaking Down the Table Flip.

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