In what ways, if any, do female offenders warrant special consideration by the Criminal Justice System. Historically female criminality has been subject to stereotyping by the Criminal Justice System (CJS), in that assumptions of female behaviour influence the decisions made by the individual stages of the CJS. Women are observed to be pure, passive and submissive, but also deceptive, emotional and jealous (Morris 1987). Heidensohn (1989) argues that recorded crime is overwhelmingly linked to sex, in that crimes are mainly committed by young male adults.
Farrington 1981 in Morris 1987) using Home Office statistics estimated that 12% of men and only 2% of women were likely to be convicted of an offence by the age of seventeen. It was also calculated that 44% of men and only15% of women were likely to be convicted of offences during their lives (Farrington 1981 cited in Morris 1987). These gender differences are also reflected in sentencing patterns for females. At any one time the number of women in prison amount to very little, varying from 1,200 to 1,500.
The ratio of women in prison compared to men is thirty males for every one female (cited in Home Office 1990,1992 in pg. 1010 Heidensohn 1994). In England and Wales in the 1980's, offending rates per 100,000 of population were always over 1,000 for males but under 500 for females (cited in pg 1002 Heidensohn 1994). Women are more likely to be involved in property offences, and non violent offences. Half of the women sentenced in 1985 for indictable offences, were sentenced for shoplifting, compared to 16% of men (cited in pg. 29 Morris 1987).
Prostitution is also strongly related to women than men, where 9,161 women were found guilty of prostitution compared to no men in 1985 (cited in pg. 29 Morris 1987). This has been interpreted by researchers as the extension of the traditional female role, in that women shop therefore shoplifting is a role extension of their traditional role. The same theory can be applied to prostitution, in that women exchange sex in marriage and prostitution is an extension of their role. Therefore assumptions about female behaviour lead to assumptions about the crimes women commit (Morris 1987).
Laws do not vary between men and women, but this is not always the case within the CJS. Substantial evidence from research conducted in the field of Criminology suggests that social characteristics of offenders influence the decisions made in the CJS, such factors include race, gender, class etc. of the offender. The sex of the offender is also significant but its influence is not as distinct. It has generally been assumed that women are treated more leniently than men within the CJS, and are considered less likely to be arrested, convicted and jailed (Morris 1987).
Therefore for this essay, I will illustrate that female offenders do warrant special consideration to a certain extent, however, this depends largely on how well a woman can portray the traditional stereotypical female role. I will illustrate that police hold stereotypical attitudes towards females and the crimes they commit. Court practice and sentencing patterns will be highlighted showing that women are jailed for trivial offences and that the "evil woman" thesis and the "double deviance double jeopardy" theses are used against women in court.
Finally I will argue that female offenders are treated harshly in prison and emphasise the poor state of their prisons which will include evidence from recent news coverage. This will also include the lack of facilities available to women, and the harm they do to themselves. I will conclude stating that stereotyping women should be removed from CJS practice and more facilities should be made available, with more community based punishment for female offenders, with prison being a last resort.
The police are the main organisation which will permitting, who can, and cannot enter the CJS. Police practice is subject to wide discretion, which is influenced by the police's interpretation of the law and encounters with individual suspects, because full enforcement of the law is not possible. Criminal statistics illustrate that the police deal with women more leniently than they do with men, and that more women are cautioned for indictable offences than men. 12% of women aged twenty one or over received cautions compared to 10% of men in 1985 (cited in PG 80 Morris 1987).