Book Review: Too big to jail: How prosecutors compromise with corporations

Date01 December 2017
Published date01 December 2017
AuthorJoan Brockman
Subject MatterBook Reviews
Through her writing of The Modern Prison Paradox, Lerman focuses on areas that most previous
correctional literature has overlooked: the impact of the prison experience on staff and the commu-
nity. With her background in political science, Lerman also takes a policy-based approach to this
issue which provides a different perspective from most criminal justice scholars. However, despite
these strengths, Lerman’s work is only a start to uncovering the effects of prison on inmates, staff,
and the community. Her argument would benefit from further studies that utilize a randomized
experimental design, as well as a range of recommendations that are feasible and have been sup-
ported by research. Due to these limitations, this book is only a starting point to uncovering the
effects of correctional punitivism. In order for Lerman’s argument to be fully supported, further
work needs to be done.
Garrett, B. L. (2014).
Too big to jail: How prosecutors compromise with corporations. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University
Press. ix, 365 pp. $21.95, ISBN 978-0-674-36831-6.
Reviewed by: Joan Brockman, School of Criminology, Simon Fraser University, British Columbia, Canada
DOI: 10.1177/0734016816687360
Professor Brandon L. Garrett (BA, Yale; JD, Columbia) is Justice Thurgood Marshall Distinguished
Professor of Law at the University of Virginia School of Law. He is also an author of Convicting the
Innocent (Harvard University Press, 2011) and numerous articles on wrongful convictions. Garrett,
with the assistance of Jonathan Ashley (the business research librarian at the University of Virginia
Law Library) and a team of law students, created two publicly acc essible databases of federal
prosecutions against organizational forms: (1) federal organizational prosecution agreements that
include 131 deferred prosecution agreements (DPAs) and 122 nonprosecution agreements (NPAs)
and (2) over 2,000 federal corporate convictions (mostly through plea agreements). The arduous
process for developing this invaluable database is described in the Appendix and is being updated as
more cases come to their attention. What you do not see in this short review is the meticulous
examination of the details which Garrett teases from the DPAs and NPAs with both big and small
Although the author acknowledges we cannot know the extent to which corporate crime occurs
(unknown to, or ignored by, prosecutors), he does show the limitation of some official statistics. For
example, Figure 1.1 shows the rise of fines meted out to convicted corporations as recorded by the
Sentencing Commission from 1994 to 2009. Superimposed on the chart are the total fines, Garrett
and his researchers found in docket searches, which include DPAs and NPAs, and they far exceed
the fines recorded by the Sentencing Commission. In addition to docket information, Garrett used
Freedom of Information Act applications to gain access to secret agreements. He also learned of
undisclosed and inaccessible ‘‘side letters.’’ Since antitrust amnesty deals are kept confidential, they
are missing from the database . Despite these limitations, Ga rrett and his associates crea ted an
invaluable comprehensive public database of corporate crime in the United States, including ‘‘For-
eign Corporate Criminals’’ (Chapter 9) that impact the country. Foreign corporations are often the
biggest prosecutions with the biggest fines, and they are the least likely to receive DPAs or NPAs.
Chapter 2 (The Company in the Courtroom) illustrates what happens when some firms go to trial.
In the case of Arthur Anderson (a large partnership and one of the Big Five accounting firms at the
time of the Enron financial disaster), the jury convicted the firm of obstructing justice as a result of
414 Criminal Justice Review 42(4)

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