Internet makes reintegration of white collar criminals tougher

LONDON: The archive, search and sharing features of digital media ensure that the online identity of those convicted of white collar crimes, such as fraud and bribery is dominated by their crime long after a sentence is completed, making it much tougher for them to get jobs and reintegrate with society, says a study.

The “labels” attached to them on digital media may have long-term negative effect on their rehabilitation, said the study published in the Journal of Criminological Research, Policy and Practice.

“Historically it has been assumed that white collar crime was un-newsworthy and offenders were unlikely to be confronted by the negative impacts of adverse publicity,” said lead author David Shepherd from the Institute of Criminal Justice Studies at the University of Portsmouth in England.

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“Consequently, there has been very little research in this field. We wanted to assess this perception and explore the accounts of some white collar criminals who have experienced the attention of the press,” Shepherd said.

Because of online media coverage, white collar criminals end up with having a “personal digital criminal legacy” (PDCL), said the study.

This sticks with them, disrupting their lives and the lives of their families, long after the reported crimes.

The study involved white collar criminals after release from prison. Seventeen participants, aged 30-65, were questioned and their answers analysed.

Overall the group became less economically productive after release from prison. Two remained long-term unemployed and five could only find work in the gig economy where fewer questions are asked.

The association of stymied employment opportunities, a permanent criminalised digital identity and Google was keenly felt by all the participants.

“I was all over the Internet, all over the BBC news, so if I typed in my details on Google you will find everything about me,” Tony, an employee convicted of occupational fraud, said.

Frank, a businessman convicted of corporate fraud, said: “You can’t erase Google. And the problem is the media portrayal of what went on. It wasn’t the truth and it’s rarely the truth. But that’s what people read, and if they read it, they believe it.”

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