CAROL COLLINS STUDENT – 11423048 1
With a focus on gender or race, discuss whether the criminal justice system is biased. Society expects the criminal justice system to provide justice for everyone by protecting the innocent, to punish and convict the guilty, and to rehabilitate them in an attempt to stop them reoffending. It is supposed to give fair justice for everyone, regardless of gender, but much is written that suggests that the criminal justice system is gender-biased. Gender bias was not formed by the justice system, but it does reflect the fundamental conditions and attitudes of society. The cost of gender bias to society, the criminal justice system, and to the people within it is enormous. To discuss if the criminal justice system is gender-biased, an understanding should be reached regarding what is meant by the term `gender`. The word gender can be difficult to define, and also how it differs from the term `sex`. Whilst the term `sex` refers to the psychological and biological physiognomies that describe men and women, the term `gender` (The Free online Dictionary) refers to the roles that society considers to be appropriate for men and women, such as activities and behaviours. Categories of gender are `masculine` and `feminine’ while sex categories are `male` and `female`. Some authors believe that the increase of females offending has increased due to the `masculinization` of women’s behaviour during the Women’s Liberation Movement in the 1970s, and is responsible for the increasing numbers of women committing crimes.(Heidensohn, 1989; Adler, 1975). Aspects of sex do not vary between human societies, but aspects of gender may be very different (Bryant and Trueman, 2000). Sex-stereotypes are said to be central to gender, which can be defined as the behaviours, attitudes, roles and beliefs that are passed from generation to generation (Weinrich, CAROL COLLINS STUDENT - 11423048 2
1980). Bias is defined as an inclination or preference that inhibits unbiased judgement. There are two views concerning whether men and women are treated differently by the courts and the police. The first is the chivalry hypothesis, which is that women are treated with more respect, sympathy and courtesy. It is stated in the chivalry theory that more leniency is given to women than to men by the police, courts and the criminal justice system in general. It is said that male chivalry means that a woman is less likely to be charged by the police, and that the courts give lesser sentences to women than men, even if they have committed the same crime as male counterparts. Women who are sent to prison often receive shorter sentences than men which does imply that women are treated more leniently (Heidensohn, 2002). Some authors state that the chivalry hypothesis becomes not so relevant if the crimes committed are the same, and sentencing varies very little between the sexes. It can be argued that the chivalry hypothesis only works if the offender fits what is considered to be the female stereotypical, gendered role. The second view of different gender-treatment is when a woman does not fit the stereotype of what are female norms, this `double jeopardy’ theory becomes relevant, which results in much harsher sentencing (Carlen, 1985). It can be argued that in some cases that women are treated more severely by the criminal justice system because women are guilty of been doubly deviant; by committing a crime they have not behaved in a way that is regarded to be a socially normal way for their gender to behave. It is also written that females who commit aggressive crimes are often treated more severely than men, who are aggressive because their behaviour is different from what is regarded as normal female behaviour (Paul and...
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