Research dating back many years shows that women serve shorter sentences as compared to men convicted of a similar offence. The most critical issue in this statement is the gender of those serving jail terms. Gender is a crucial element to study as pertains to sentencing because of the historically paternalistic and chivalrous view of the criminal justice system (Rodriguez, Curry & Lee, 318). According to Annison, Jill, Brayford and Deering (14), gender factors play a prominent role in affecting a womans chance of acquiring a custodial penalty. The legal system views women offenders as less responsible for their crimes, and instead of punishment, they need protection. For this reason, the judicial systems tend to treat female criminals differently than their male counterparts. Further research supports this notion by claiming that the court system is lenient on female offenders than on male ones, even when both commit the same crime and have a similar criminal background.
There should be no doubt that women vary from men in many ways, for instance, physical strength, emotionally, and in behavior. Therefore, even in cases of committing a crime, it is evident that womens actions will differ from those of the men. Additionally, their reasons to commit the offences will also vary significantly. Consequently, it is essential to put these elements into consideration while sentencing women offenders, and ensure that the process is different from that of their male colleagues.
There exist various reasons why judges punish women offenders leniently, for instance, pregnancy, single motherhood, or previous cases of victimization. However, according to Rodriguez, Curry and Lee (319), although women often attain preferential treatment in sentencing as compared to men, they only get declining sentencing departures if their crimes do not violate gender norms. Rodriguez and his associates (320) continue to claim that offences related to female offenders mainly include, theft, forgery, and shoplifting. However, for serious crimes, for example, murder and arson, many judges may give strict sentences similar to male offenders in the same category of the offence. In other words, factors relating the severity of the crime vary between genders and have more effect on the judges sentencing decisions rather than on the particular sex of the offender. Typically, women offenders are less violent than their male colleagues are. Consequently, they may have committed the same crime, but their level of harm or violence differs significantly. Having this in mind, the magnitude of the offence may have more weight during the sentencing that the gender of the offender.
Another factor that may affect the sentencing of women is that many of them normally have shorter or even lack criminal backgrounds compared to men offenders. Thus, judges release them based on good behavior or dismissal. Moreover, these two elements do not require a conviction. Additionally, parenthood and care responsibilities that women bear contribute largely to downward departures of their sentences. The society views women as the primary caregivers of families. For this reason, their incarceration may contribute negatively to their innocent children and families. Therefore, judges tend to consider this significantly, which contributes to their leniency towards the women offenders. Further studies attribute gender to the kind of sentence imposed on an offender. More often, male criminals receive sentences of incarceration, which translates to longer jail terms than those imposed on their female colleagues.
It is crucial to note why women commit various offences, a key factor contributing to the differential sentencing by the court system. Many incarcerated women possess a history of unmet social, health, educational and economic needs, in addition to a background of victimization. Such factors contribute largely to the reason behind women committing various offences, such as drug abuse and shoplifting. Others have a history of domestic violence and sexually related offences against them. Therefore, many crimes women commit are nonviolent and survival crimes as they strive to earn a living, escape a terrifying intimate union, or feed a drug-dependent lifestyle (Annison et al., 27) Consequently, the needs of the women in the criminal justice system vary extensively from that of men. For this reason, it is critical that judges sentence them differently.
To conclude, gender issues contribute mostly in decision-making processes of the criminal justice systems. Both women and men commit offences. Often, these crimes are similar or closely related. In other occasions, both female and male offenders participate in the same offence. However, the judicial system sentences women differently from men due to unique gender factors. Women are the primary caretakers of innocent children and families. Others have a history of domestic violence, sexual harassment, and discrimination against educational, health, and economic provisions by the society. Additionally, the level of violence and the degree of crimes women offenders commit vary considerably to male delinquents. Therefore, seeing women as less responsible for their crimes by the judicial system is inevitable, because instead of punishment, they need assistance. Consequently, many judges have to continue putting all these factors into consideration, which prompts them to sentence women differently to men. In this case, differently refers to leniency and shorter incarceration durations.
Annison, Jill, Jo Brayford, and John Deering. Women and Criminal Justice: From the Corston Report to Transforming Rehabilitation. Bristol: Policy Press, 2015. Print.
Fernando Rodriguez, S., Theodore R. Curry, and Gang Lee. "Gender Differences in Criminal Sentencing: Do Effects Vary Across Violent, Property, and Drug Offenses?*." Social Science Quarterly 87.2 (2006): 318-339.
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