Women throughout history have been viewed in a different sphere to men, and because of this throughout history; they have been treated differently to men in many diverse aspects of society. In the study of criminology, this can be seen with the way the female offender was viewed by society and in the ways, treatment for female offenders was administered. This issue will be explored in more detail to help understand the social constructs formed in female criminality that shape the female corrections today.
Examples studied from historical and modern times will be looked at to see if women in prison are punished differently to men or if they are punished as men. Aspects of prison life will be discussed which will include the work and educational programs on offer in male and female penal institutions and differences that may occur and rules regulations and the handing out of discipline by custodial staff and wether or not it is harsher in a female institution.
Differences in the general architecture and design of the male and female prisons themselves will also be looked at and sought to see if there are any major architectural differences. A major factor contributing to the way female corrections are shaped today is how the female offender and female criminality has been viewed in the past. Women offenders were traditionally seen "as more mad, than bad" and when they offended, they were perceived as being in need of care, protection and psychiatric help rather than punitive measures. (Wahidin 2004: 51).
Where male criminals were feared as dangerous, women criminals tended to be regarded as misguided creatures that needed protection and help (Giallombardo 1966:7). Prison reformation for women was based on two main ideas of female offending. First, that the causes of women's criminality came from "an inherent pathological or biological weaknesses" and second "that women offenders had fundamentally deviated from their natural feminine roles" (Barton 2005:2). Reformation as such meant something quite different for women than it did for men.
Treatment for women meant instilling in them standards of sexual morality and sobriety and preparing them for their duties as mothers and homemakers whilst reformation for men was about retribution and punishment for crimes committed. (Giallombardo 1966:7). These gender stereotypes dating back to the nineteenth century influenced the design, custodial regimes and educational programs on offer at female institutions and to this day these gender stereotypes continue to affect the treatment, conditions, and educational opportunities of incarcerated women.
(Zaitzow 2003:23) Female and male prisons in both the United States and Australia offer educational and work-study programs for their inmates, but there is question as to wether there is equality between what is on offer in female institutions compared to male institutions. According to Chesney-Lind and Pasko, (2004:159) traditional programs for women prisoners represented their perceived role in society and thus, they were taught to be good housekeepers and mothers: vocational education was slighted in favour of domestic training.
Chesney-Lind and Pasko (2004:164) go on further to stress that, women inmates have never had the same range of programs as male inmates, which is often justified because of their low numbers. Shover and Einstadter (1988:103) agree with this opinion and state in general, male prisoners continue to be given more opportunities in vocational training, industrial experience and certain services than most women do as the small number of women incarcerated does not justify the expense of duplicate programs in many areas.