Women, Crime and Criminal Justice


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Professor Loraine Gelsthorpe, Institute of Criminology, University of Cambridge
Women, Crime and Criminal Justice

11. 4. 2012

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Women, Crime and Criminal Justice

  1. 1. Professor Loraine Gelsthorpe, Institute of Criminology, University of Cambridge, UK Women, Crime and Criminal Justice lrg10@cam.ac.uk University of Maribor, ‘Out of the Box’ seminar 11th April, 2012
  2. 2. Women offenders…1. Myths, muddles and misconceptions2. What do we know about women’s needs? What do we know about what works with women offenders?3. Is there justification for dealing with women differently from men? What are the implications of differentiated responses to women and men?
  3. 3. ‘As a class, they are desperately wicked. As a classdeceitful, crafty, malicious, lewd and devoid of commonfeeling…in the penal classes of the male prisons thereis not one man to match the worst inmate of our femaleprisons. There are some women less easy to tamethan the creatures of the jungle, and one is almostsceptical of believing that there was ever an innocentchildhood or better life belonging to them’ (From: A Prison Matron, 1862: 46)
  4. 4. Key themes: pathology, domesticity and respectability Women in the court room are ‘out of place’ Farrington and Morris (1983) for men, nature of offence more important; for women, family background, ‘social problems’ Influence of being a ‘good mother’ vs stepping outside normal female roles i.e. sex role stereotypes (women acting ‘in character’ and ‘out of character’) Carlen 1983: ‘if she’s a good mother we don’t want to take her away. If she’s not a good mother it doesn’t really matter’ (judge)
  5. 5. Women’s prisons:‘Discipline, Infantalise, Medicalize andDomesticize’ (Pat Carlen, 1985: 182) ‘…women’s family responsibilities and previous familyhistories interact (variously) with dominant ideologiesabout women’s place in the family and (contradictorily)with the rigours of state punishment – to increaseseveral-fold the pains of penal incarceration’ (1998:82).
  6. 6. The treatment of women in the CJS Chivalry / leniency ‘Evil woman’ thesis – double punishment: – Female offenders seen as ‘bad citizens and unnatural women… perversions of normal femininity’ (Carlen and Worrall 2004) Paternalism – leniency and harshness
  7. 7. Examples of research findings Moxon (1988): women less likely to receive a custodial sentence i.e. leniency Daly (1989; 1994): men and women not sentenced differently for like crimes; the family, rather than women themselves, may be the beneficiaries of judicial paternalism Hood (1992): women less likely to receive a custodial sentence i.e. leniency Hedderman and Hough (1994): ‘the weight of evidence is against [the] claim’ of discrimination against women cf. Studies which suggest ‘harshness’ towards women (Edwards, 1984; Dominelli, 1986)
  8. 8. Source: Fawcett Society (2007) Women and Justice. Third Annual Review of theCommission on Women and the Criminal Justice System. London: The Fawcett Society. 11
  9. 9. Trends regarding sentencing Increases in women’s crime? More serious offending? Changes in type of woman sentenced to imprisonment? Women being sentenced ‘more equally’? Increases in the length of sentences? – The average sentence for women received into prison from the Crown Court in 2002 was 25 months. In 1994 – 18.5 months. A slight increase (but sufficient to account for the large increase re women in prison?) – Magistrates’ Courts – average = no major change between 1994 and 2002 - from 2.3 months to 2.5 months A higher proportion being given custodial sentences? Some uptariffing… Mainly less serious offenders being more harshly punished than in the past, but short sentences i.e. more severe sentences for less serious offences Perhaps also longer sentences for serious crimes (Hough et al 2003)
  10. 10. A more recent study of sentencing: Understanding the sentencing of Women; Hedderman & Gelsthorpe (1997) Study based on 3 samples of cases drawn from the Offenders Index in 1991: 3,763 shoplifters, 6,547 violent offenders; 3,670 drug offenders; m and f ‘matched’ re offences, offence seriousness, previous convictions etc. Seeming reluctance to imprison women (in some cases)…but complexities…
  11. 11. Research findings F shoplifters less likely to be fined. M and F - equal chance of being sent to prison for a first violent offence (but not so among repeat offenders) Women first offenders re drugs less likely than men to receive a prison sentence for drugs offences; but recidivists equally likely to be sent to prison Among first and repeat offenders, women convicted of violence and drugs offences were always more likely to be discharged, and men more likely to be fined Reluctance to fine women (some – leniency (if discharged), some – severity (if received a community penalty)
  12. 12. Hedderman & Gelsthorpe, Understanding theSentencing of Women 1997). Key findings: Nearly 200 interviews with magistrates in 5 different courts (harsh/lenient towards women/men; no difference in treatment) ‘Troubled’ or ‘troublesome’? Men less likely to be seen as troubled, even in similar circumstances Body language and appearance Family responsibilities – for men as well as women Use of custody a last resort for women > men; women more likely to be perceived as in need of help Fines seen as unsuitable for women caring for children without independent means Support of family or long-term partners improved chances of avoiding custody; likewise employment. Unemployment perceived differently for men and women
  13. 13. Findings“…a shoplifting woman would probably be a single mother without enoughmoney. A shoplifting man would very rarely be a single father withoutenough money and kids yapping around – they would be lads out on thetown wanting to get a snappy pair of jeans…” (Mag. 12, Shelley court (F)“There’s still something of the defence for sex, I’m afraid. And you reallywonder how the innocent-looking young lady in front of you, who’sobviously been told by her solicitor to look as helpless as possible, couldpossibly have undertaken the violent elements that are there.” (Mag. 3,Hallam court (M))“Think of them as greedy; needy or dotty.” (Group 3, Shelley court (F))“…the women feed the family whereas the men, although they have tosupport their family, don’t.” (Mag. 13, Byron court (F))
  14. 14. Women offenders’ needs: O-DEAT data(2005; sample of 158,161 offenders) (NOMS data) 39% victims of domestic violence 33% accommodation needs 32% misuse of drugs 29% education and training needs 28% financial needs 24% misuse of alcohol 16% particular needs re employment 56% relationship problems (35% men) 59% well-being needs (37% men)(NOMS/NPS, 2006)
  15. 15. Women in Prison: basic facts The numbers of women in prison: 4,221 out of 831,839 (November 2011) = 5%f , 95%m 34% no previous convictions (15% for men) Only 38% of women receive a sentence of over 6 months; few on life sentences (less than 200); most sentenced to under 1 year 29% from BME groups (around 10% foreign nationals – mainly drug trafficking + fraud and forgery, with long sentences) Widespread mental health problems (x5 national population), drug and substance abuse
  16. 16. What do we know about women in prison? 2008 data shows that of those women appearing at the Magistrates’ Court who were remanded in custody, 80 percent went on to receive a non- custodial sentence or were acquitted (25% of men). 3.2% of women assessed as high/very high risk of serious harm to others in the community (11.4% of men).
  17. 17. What do we know about women in prison? – 29% report an alcohol problem and 30% report a drug problem on arrival in prison – Female prisoners who self-harm do so more frequently than male prisoners (average 7 incidents for each female prisoner self-harming compared to 3 incidents for each male) – 3 times the number of females self-harming per 1,000 prisoners compared to males (365 females compared to 68 males) – 59% have problems with relationships (35% for men) which may affect risk of reoffending
  18. 18. What do we know about women in prison? 63% of women in prison for non-violent offences 78% of women in prison exhibit some level of psychological disturbance (compared with 15% in gen. pop) 1in 4 women in prison has spent time in LA care as a child Over half the women in prison say they have been subject to domestic violence and 1 in 3 sexual abuse Women prisoners often inadequately prepared for release Only 1/3 received help with help & advice about benefits and debt(All drawn from Ministry of Justice s. 95 statistics, the Prison Reform Trust, & Social Exclusion Unit findings)
  19. 19.  The backgrounds and circumstances of women’s lives are inseparable from their involvement in crime. Like men, financial difficulties & substance abuse often causes; but also physical and sexual abuse inextricable from crimes and reoffending (Gelsthorpe and Sharpe 2007), plus relationship problems, coercion by men. Around two-thirds of women in prison have children (Home Office/ Social Exclusion Unit); around one third are single parents; around 18,000 children are affected annually by the imprisonment of mothers
  20. 20. SUMMARY: WOMEN OFFENDERS ENGLAND AND WALES:The Case for a Different Approach – Women tend to be in prison for non-violent, prolific offences – Most are in for short sentences – Lower level Community Penalties + Higher proportion of positive outcomes for women on Community Orders and Suspended Sentence Orders (compared with outcomes for men) - Victimisation -> psychological sequalae which can lead to offending behaviour (Hollin and Palmer, 2006) (Min of J s. 95 statistics)
  21. 21. What Works with women: Research evidence Women as ‘correctional afterthoughts’ What works for men will work for women too (Cann, 2006 – ‘Enhanced Thinking Skills’) Worrall: ‘women who offend are not driven by cognitive deficits’ (2002: 144) Martin, Kautt & Gelsthorpe (2009): gender responsiveness in GOBP can have positive effect
  22. 22. What Works with women: Research evidence Different ways of learning and gender informed responses Blanchette and Brown (2006) -> match treatment style to learning style + (e.g. health care, child care and mental health case specific factors to be addressed for women) Gendered pathways, strengths-based approaches, relational theory, positive psychology, trauma (see Gelsthorpe, 2011)
  23. 23. The Corston Report (2007):recommendations A Report of a Review on Women with Particular Vulnerabilities in the Criminal Justice System: – ‘We must find better ways to keep out of prison those women who pose no threat to society and to improve the prison experience for those who do’ Custodial sentences for women must be reserved for serious and violent offenders who pose a threat to the public Women’s needs must be acknowledged at all levels of sentencing and the penal system Should dismantle existing women’s prisons (within 10 years) and replace with small, local multi-functional custodial centres ‘for the minority of women from whom the public requires protection’ 26
  24. 24. The Government’s response to Corston On sentencing: sentencers to be better informed regarding what is available for women in the community; promotion of appropriateness and benefits of community sentences; use of community order to be maximised A NOMS National Service Framework for Women (April 2008) Revised Guide Good Practice Guide on ‘Delivering Effective Services for Women Offenders in the Community Examination and development of women’s centre provision in the community Review of future of women’s custodial estate + gender specific standards for women in prison (including design features) Health: offender health strategy; Minister from Health will sit on IMGp for women; new strands on court diversion; more timely psychiatric reports; NHS care in police stations NB. Resistance to the small residential unit idea… 27
  25. 25. Women offenders in the community: 9 lessons2. Be women-only;3. Integrate offenders and non-offenders;4. Foster women’s empowerment;5. Utilise what is known about women’s effective learning styles;6. Take a holistic and practical stance;7. Facilitate links with mainstream agencies;8. Allow women to return for ‘top ups’ of continued support;9. Ensure that women have a supportive milieu or mentor;10. Provide practical help with transport and childcare. [Gelsthorpe, Sharpe and Roberts, 2007: Provision for Women Offenders in the Community]
  26. 26. Equality as difference… ‘It should take account of the fact that women commit less serious offences than men, they are less dangerous, and the social costs of imprisonment are higher than men’s and that differential treatment for men and women within the penal system is justifiable: ‘Equal treatment…does not mean identical treatment, whether for women, or for members of cultural or ethnic minorities’(Prison Reform Trust, 2000: para 7.2).
  27. 27. Pause for thought… Unintended consequences of the ‘equal but different’ movement ? What about the legitimacy of sentencing?
  28. 28. Resolving difficulties… Beyond gender, justice, and difference: is there a third way? Acknowledging difference and diversity in the form (but not the amount/level of punishment…the importance of desert). The rationale for acknowledging diversity and difference: towards citizenship (see Tyler Why People Obey the Law, 1991; Paternoster et al., ‘Factors which facilitate legitimacy’, Law and Society Review 1997, 31, pp163-204 – Representation, consistency, impartiality, accuracy, correctability, ethicality