Social Privilege as Skillful Impression Management

Let me put it differently. The difference then lies in certain criminals functioning from an upper-class, dominant habitus which entitles them to a better – read "non-criminal" – social perception. Their cultural and social capital allows them to be viewed as upstanding individuals.

This is really no different than arguing, as Bourdieu and Passeron argued in La Reproduction, that white-collar criminals – such as Madoff – possess a dominant habitus and forms of capital that make them more at ease within social settings from which they will commit their crimes, just like upper-class kids have a habitus that match more closely the cultural expectations of the educational system (manners, speech patterns, etc.) which makes them more at home within the system and creates a more peer-like relationship with the teachers.

In the case of white-collar criminals, their upper-class habitus is basically a guarantee of initial non-criminal perception. In this sense, social privilege turns into a form of interactive skill: the capacity to produce effective impression management.

It is partly this possession of a habitus that is more homologous to that of members of the criminal justice system (especially the judicial part of it) that explains the kid globe glove (thanks, Jay!) treatment white-collar and corporate criminals receive, compared to the punishment handed down to the riff-raff who commit less socially costly crimes, but have the misfortune of a subordinate habitus that endowed them with less social and cultural capital, more at odds with the norms of the criminal justice system.

And as Todd Krohn notes, not only do upper-class criminals get treated significantly more leniently than street criminals, they also get to not be entirely blamed for the crimes they have committed. Indeed, regarding street criminals, one will often invoke "don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time" motto, whereas for white-collar criminals like Madoff

It’s actually a two-fer: Madoff gets some exoneration and the system also escapes blame as responsibility for the current troubles gets redirected from political and structural considerations to moral ones attributed to people lower on the social ladder.