Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 2023


White-collar crime is underenforced: not enough cases are brought, not many convictions are secured, and when they are, those who were convicted usually benefit from leniency not seen in other kinds of criminal wrongdoing. Calls for accountability center on strengthening the traditional tools of criminal law enforcement to reach actors that have so far eluded criminal liability. These responses, however, risk further entrenching the systems that have led the United States to mass incarceration and its many real and tangible harms. In this Article, I question whether an abolitionist framework is possible for white-collar crime. First, I argue that given the type of perpetrator and conduct involved in white-collar offenses, it seems as though white-collar offenses cannot be addressed under an abolitionist framework. I then show, however, that traditional justifications for incarceration are no more valid in the white-collar context than in other ones. Finally, I suggest how non-carceral responses may better ensure accountability for white-collar wrongdoing. My goal is not to suggest that we should embrace these responses immediately but that they are possible and worth building.

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Criminal Law Commons