Women Criminals and Social Inequality
In today’s society, stratification is very prevalent. Race, sex, religion, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, age, and ability all play a role in how one fits into society and how much power one has in their position. This is true in the criminal justice system as well. More specifically, sex plays a very significant role in the outcome of arrest, sentencing, and detention of criminals. The topic of female criminals is significant because in the criminal justice system, male and female offenders are treated very differently in more ways than one. Throughout arrests, court outcomes, correctional stays, and parole or probation, sex plays a significant factor. For example, mitigating factors in the cases of female murderers or other hard crimes have more emphasis in the criminal justice system than mitigating factors in male’s cases do. Also, while in the correctional system, female institutions offer less opportunities and have worse healthcare than male institutions. It is obvious that these factors impact females greatly, yet males are equally as impacted regarding the outcomes of arrest, sentencing, and detention. Regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, age, or ability, females and males who have committed the same crimes are not treated the same. One reason this might occur is because our society is very patriarchal. Males dominant the leadership roles in almost every occupation and this is especially true for the criminal justice system. Also, females are only now starting to participate in serious crimes. With universal women equality, women are no longer satisfied working for men being their look-outs or get-away drivers. Females have taken the extreme roles on themselves and it is a shock to the criminal justice system who has only known males that murder and commit serious crimes. Another reason that female criminals are an important issue is because of the factor of male chivalry. Because most police officers are male, the police force sees females as people to look out for and take care of. It is difficult to see females as people who could murder or commit a severe offense. Although there are many reasons why sex plays a significant factor in the outcome of arrest, sentencing, and detention of criminals, these are the main ones that are seen today. Traditionally, women have been under the control and ownership of their husband or father. If a female was to have committed a serious offense her owner would be in charge of punishing and reprimanding her. However, there is research that shockingly reveals many women being sent to Australia during the fourteenth century. These women were maids, servants, or laundresses. Their crimes consisted of petty offenses such as stealing or shoplifting, and prostitution. Between the years of 1787 and 1852, 24,960 females were put on ships and sent to Australia for crimes that not even males would be sent for. Also, many of the females were first time offenders. After being arrested and sentenced to deportation, the women were repeatedly raped and sexually assaulted in the jails and on the ship, something that would very unlikely happen to the males aboard the ship (Chesney-Lind, 1986, p. 82-83). In the years to follow, research has found that most women who murdered were indentured servants or those in an abusive marriage. For example, if a master was to rape an indentured servant and she was to become pregnant, it would add two years to her service. The woman would than commit infanticide to hide the pregnancy and would not have to work for her master any longer than necessary. In addition, women forced into marriages and especially those that were abusive were much more likely to murder than husband (Chesney-Lind, 1986, p. 83). Many women who commit crimes were victims of family abuse or neglect. Because the woman’s crime that she committed was linked to her status as an...
References: Arrigo, B. A. & Griffin, A. (2004). Serial murder and the case of aileen wuornos: Attachment theory, psychopathy, and predatory aggression. Behavioral sciences and the law, 22, 375-393.
Chesney-Lind, M. (1986). Women and crime: The female offender. Signs 12 (1), 78-96.
Steffensmeier, D. J. (1980). Assessing the impact of the women’s movement on sex-based differences in the handling of adult criminal defendants. Crime & delinquency, 23 (3), 344-357.
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