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Introduction

rather not know the extent of their “borrowings.” All of the long-term violators in the study expressed a feeling that they would like to eventually “clean the slate” and repay their debt.

Cressey noted that many of the offenders finally realized they were “in too deep.” This realization forces violators to think of the possible consequences of their actions. Cressey said the fear generated from being in over one’s head is not caused by the thought of going to jail—after all, offenders do not generally consider their conduct il- legal. As Cressey observed, “The trust violator cannot fear the treatment usually ac- corded criminals until he comes to look upon himself as a criminal.”23

But at some point, Cressey noted, the offenders start becoming apprehensive about the possible social connotations and, later, the criminal possibilities. A number of of- fenders described themselves as extremely nervous and upset, tense, and unhappy. Cressey felt that without the rationalization that they are borrowing, long-term offenders in the study found it difficult to reconcile converting money, while at the same time see- ing themselves as honest and trustworthy. If this is the situation, Cressey says that “as a result, [the offender] either (a) readopts the attitudes of the groups with which he identi- fied before he violated the trust, or (b) he adopts the attitudes of the new category of per- sons (offenders) with whom he now identifies.”24

ABSCONDERS The third group of offenders Cressey discussed was “absconders”—people who take the money and run. He was able to work this group into his theory of a nonsharable finan- cial need by describing their behavior as “isolated.” He observed:

While among persons who abscond with entrusted funds, as among other violators, al- most any problem situation may be defined as nonsharable, the problems which are non- sharable for absconders are almost always of that nature, at least in part because the person is physically isolated from other persons with whom he can share his problems. In- dividuals who abscond with the funds or goods entrusted to them usually are unmarried or separated from their spouses, live in hotels or rooming houses, have few primary group associations of any sort, and own little property. Only one of the absconders interviewed had held a higher status position of trust, such as an accountant, business executive, or bookkeeper.25

Cressey says that although absconders recognize their behavior as criminal, they jus- tify their actions by claiming their behavior is caused by outside influences beyond their control. Absconders also frequently express a don’t-care attitude. Moreover, they are more likely to claim their own personal “defects” led to their criminality.

In the 1950s, when Cressey gathered this data, embezzlers were considered

persons of higher socioeconomic status who took money over periods of time . . . while “thieves” are persons of lower status who take whatever funds are at hand. Since most ab- sconders identify with the lower status group, they look upon themselves as belonging to a special class of thieves rather than trust violators. Just as long-term violators and inde- pendent businessmen do not at first consider the possibility of absconding with the funds, absconders do not consider the possibility of taking relatively small amounts of money over a period of time.26

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