Female Offenders

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Aarron Eilers

February 22, 2010

Female Offenders

The number of women incarcerated is growing at a rapid pace. This calls for a reevaluation of our correction institutions to deal with women’s involvement in crime. Increasing numbers of arrests for property crime and public order offenses are outpacing that of men. The “War on Drugs” has a big influence on why our prisons have become overcrowded in the last 25 years. Women are impacted more than ever because they are being convicted equally for drug and other offenses. Female criminal behavior has always been identified as minor compared to Male’s criminal behavior. Over the years women have made up only small part of the offender populations. There is still only a small portion of the inmate population that is female but it is increasing at a high rate. Women are participating in more violent crimes and being convicted of crimes that were historically reserved for men. The Bureau of Justice Statistics which reports a yearend report of number of females incarcerated reported that there were 26,300 females behind bars for violent crimes after the year of 2002. Violent crimes in women prisons accounted for thirty-three percent of the population. The overall female population also increased 2.9 percent from 2003 to 2004.

People have recently started paying much more attention to women who commit violent crimes. Women most times have a plan and a target when committing a crime like murder. The target is usually someone very close to them such as a spouse or their children. The reasons for committing the murder range from jealously to self defense. The female usually has been a target of violence somewhere in her past as well. Research that has been done shows that a female who commits murder tends to be older than a one who commits a petty crime. The Bureau of Justice Statistics indicated that most women who commit such a crime as murder did so while they were alone with the victim. Only eight percent of the time was another female or male present during the offense. The Bureau also reports that forty percent of the time the female was under the influence of some type of drug or alcohol.

Most women who have spent time in jails or prisons have a lifelong connection with the justice system. Estimates done in the United States show that fifty-eight percent of women are rearrested, thirty percent return to prison within three years, and thirty-eight percent are reconvicted. In Kruttschnitt and Gartner’s review of the literature they suggest that the demographic plays a major part in a female’s recidivism. Females who have a history of property crime, drug use, and a lengthy criminal history are more likely to recidivate. Deschenes and colleagues study of the cohort recidivism dataset revealed similar findings. They did note that the effect of drug abuse and institutional programs were absent from the report. Some questions have surfaced when looking at the general recidivism literature. Scholars argue that the study of recidivism should have a broader range of study. It needed to add the whole life perspective not just a short period in the female’s life.

Now that women are committing crimes at almost the same rate as men the question arises, should men and women receive the same treatment in the criminal justice system. This issue has sparked debate in the last few years. The current law states that the defendant should not receive any special treatment due to characteristics such as race, gender, or age. These are considered extralegal and should not be considered during the sentencing process. Gender was ignored until the early 1980’s, but when it was given attention it focused on sex differences and sanctioning instead of questioning the crimes of men and the criminal justice system’s response to men’s crimes. Most research done on sentencing and gender goes as far back as 1934 when Martin concluded that females were no more...
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