If you are an executive looking to embezzle, commit tax fraud or any other white-collar crime, but are afraid of what might happen in prison – don’t worry, it is not as bad as you think.

Dodgy businesspeople can sleep soundly knowing that while they may be ripping off any number of legitimate members of society, if they are eventually locked up they may actually have less trouble than the run-of-the-mill criminal.

A recent study from the United States aimed to find out whether the fear of worse prison treatment for white-collar criminals was legitimate. It turns out not only do white-collar criminals fit in at prison just as easily as drug-dealers; some actually thrive among the recidivists and reprobates.

When it comes to specific adjustment issues – problems with cell mates, feelings of safety and general difficulties – criminals from the corporate arena reported fewer problems than other prison populations, according to new research from the University of Cincinnati in a paper titled “Revisiting the Special Sensitivity Hypothesis: The Prison Experience of White-Collar Inmates” published in the journal Justice Quarterly.

A recent graduate of the University of California's doctoral program in criminal justice, Michael Benson, explained: “Before entering prison, most white-collar criminals are afraid for their safety and terrified about aspects of serving their sentences, but the survey data we mined shows that white-collar criminals have no greater problems adjusting to prison life than other populations. And, in some instances, white-collar criminals seem to cope better. That’s likely due to the fact that these are people who have been successful in business, understand how a bureaucracy works as well as the need for rules and regulations. They also tend to have social support from families.”

In addition to finding that white-collar criminals have no greater difficulty adjusting to prison than other populations, the researchers found:

  • White-collar prisoners were more likely to report having made friends in prison.
  • White-collar criminals were less likely to report general difficulties.
  • White-collar criminals were less likely to report a need for safety.
  • White-collar criminals were less likely to report problems with cell mates.

So if you are in the position to benefit by creating hardship or depriving promised returns to large amounts of people - feel free. It turns out you might just make some new friends when the board room becomes a barred cell.

The report is accessible here.