Term Paper: Women in the Criminal Justice System

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Women in the Criminal Justice System

The Law Enforcement Assistance Administration Task Force on Women re-evaluated its 1975 recommendations on issues concerning the treatment of women and girls in the criminal justice system (Gowdy et al. 1998). The Task Force found that female offenders, female crime victims, and female criminal justice professionals have been significantly neglected despite noteworthy gains made. Although the nature and composition of female offenders have improved or changed, their needs have remained largely neglected. Assistance rendered to them has increased and improved, but the criminal justice and juvenile justice systems have yet to make a firm commitment to change their response to victimized women and girls. Opportunities for female criminal justice professionals have likewise improved, but gender bias and inequality within the justice system persist and slow down women's progress through the ranks (Gowdy).

Records show that, in the 20-year period between 1975 and 1995, more women were arrested, convicted and sent to prison in 1995 at 6.3% than in any other previous year (Gowdy 1998). They had become likelier to be incarcerated for crimes, such as larceny, forgery, embezzlement, prostitution and drugs. But the rise in the number of female offenders was not matched by an increase in specialized programs, like medical care, counseling, health care, drug treatment or parenting skills training. The difference became more marked in the light of a stronger and more stringent punitive philosophy. The report said that the system was also unable to provide young female offenders with gender-specific services, such as sexual exploitation and abuse counseling, treatment of substance abuse conditions, and parenting skills training. Despite significant legislative attention and milestones, preventive and intervention measures were or have been primarily focused on male offenders (Gowdy).

The 1995 report of the Task Force said that women were five times more victimized than men and by persons with whom they had intimate relationships, such as present or former spouses, lovers or boyfriends (Gowdy 1998). Many of the women victims were hesitant to report the crimes for reasons of privacy, the perceived stigma and the belief that nothing would come out of it. In many cases, those who reported were not helped but blamed for the injury and dealt with her accordingly. Gender inequity has also been an area of struggle for female criminal justice professionals in male-dominated arenas like law enforcement, corrections and the courts. Traditionally, women were allowed to function only as correctional officers in institutions only with peripheral duties and in juvenile facilities to handle crimes, which involved female offenders, and to do clerical jobs. Female lawyers and judges were likewise and traditionally considered not as capable as male counterparts and often assigned to handle or decide only family and civil cases. The situation was said to have elicited mounting public attention to violence committed against women along with a modified response on the side of the criminal justice system since 1975. That response has been in the form of changes, such as the criminalization of domestic violence, the setting up of sexual assault treatment centers and the passage of the 1994 Crime Act. This Crime Act included the Violence Against Women Act, which gave women additional rights to protect them from stalking, domestic violence and sexual assault, particularly by an intimate or family member (Gowdy).

Women and girls still constitute a relatively small percentage of those incarcerated and comparatively fewer resources than those for men and boys but the rate of incarceration among women and girls has been recently noted to go faster than that of men and boys by the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, such as at 888% between 1986 and 1996 (Ketcham 2001). Since the 90s, the number of females convicted of felonies has been twice as many as males. Among the issues concerning incarcerated women identified by Amnesty International or AI were health care, sentencing, abuse by male prison guards and the right to suffrage by female ex-convicts. In its prison visits, AI observed that incarcerated women did not receive sufficient physical and mental services, not even routine medical examinations, although many of them had health problems at the time of their incarceration. It, therefore, recommended adequate but free physical and mental screening for all women in prison, onsite medical capabilities, psychotropic medications, the use of appropriate standards of care

AI also traced the increase in the incidence of female incarceration to the changes in sentencing laws, wherein felonies not previously punishable by imprisonment became crimes that were punishable by… [END OF PREVIEW]

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Women in the Criminal Justice System.  (2005, January 9).  Retrieved June 18, 2019, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/women-criminal-justice-system/16524

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"Women in the Criminal Justice System."  9 January 2005.  Web.  18 June 2019. <https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/women-criminal-justice-system/16524>.

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"Women in the Criminal Justice System."  Essaytown.com.  January 9, 2005.  Accessed June 18, 2019.
https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/women-criminal-justice-system/16524.