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Are Women treated equally in the criminal justice system?


The issue of equality has been there for decades and women are saidto have made great strides in negotiating their space amongst themen. It is evident that today women are equal or even above men inthe education sector. Additionally, women have also ensured that theissue of bringing up a family and taking care of children is ahusband’s affair, as it is her own affair. This equality has alsobeen reflected in the criminal justice system where the system hastried to ensure that the needs of women are met (Sanders &ampHamilton, 2010). However, it is imperative to note that women havespecial needs that the criminal justice system must ensure they aremet. It is unfortunate to note that the criminal justice systemhardly meets the special needs that females are in dire need of. Whereas the number of women incarcerated has increased significantlysince the 1980s, the criminal justice system is yet to come up with away to deal with female law breakers.

It is evident from research approximately 7% of all incarceratedwomen are pregnant. These are women who require special needs andtreatment. However, the criminal justice system continue toincarcerate such women together with other prisoners in jails thatare similar to the male jails (Vito &amp Maahs, 2012). It is clearthat such women continue to suffer in the hands of the law enforcers.In a vast majority of the jails, pregnant women who develop laborpains suffer undue pain when waiting for the services of the lawenforcers. Furthermore, the pregnant women, after delivering, areonly allowed to stay in the hospital for 24-48 hours before they arereturned to prison (Feinman, 2007). This separation from the child isextremely traumatizing and such women psychological disorders.

Research has indicated that a vast majority of the women in prisonsare either as a result drug related crimes or domestic crimesrelating to child development. The percentage of women who areincarcerated as a result of violent crimes is extremely low. It hastherefore been viewed as unfair for female offenders to be subjectedto the inhumane prison conditions similar to the men’s, a vastmajority of which are accused of violent crimes. The criminal justicesystem should come up with other less punitive measures for femaleoffenders. It is also apparent that almost 80% of the femaleoffenders have children whom they are personally attached to (Sanders&amp Hamilton, 2010). Such female prisoners are in dire need ofchild care services which they hardly get. On the contrary, maleprisoners do not have such special needs.

The numerous cases sexual violence has seen females as being thevictims while the males are the offenders. Although there has beentremendous progress in handling females who are victims of sexualviolence and rape, there are some criminal justice systems that arenot adequately equipped to deal with such crimes (Immarigeon &ampCivic Research Institute, 2006). Victims of sexual violence and rapeare mishandled by criminal justice employees. There are eveninstances in some criminal justice systems especially in thedeveloping countries where such victims are handled by men. Evidenceof such crimes has also been mishandled where justice end up beingjeopardized

Research has also indicated that a high number of the femaleprisoners have traumatic pasts. For instance, a high number of thefemale prisoners have been victims of substance abuse and extrememental disorders. Such female offenders require counselling andguidance in order to rehabilitate them (Immarigeon &amp CivicResearch Institute, 2006). However, such female offenders havereceived little or no support from the criminal justice employees.They are just treated like men who may not have any special needs assuch. Female prisoners are also said to have past treatments for suchdisorders and are equally said to have physical health problems thanmen. The criminal justice system does not seem to realize this andfemales do not receive equal treatment as men. In other words, theirspecial needs are not met.

Due to the popular societal belief that females are less likely tobe involved in crime or to be incarcerated has made life extremelydifficult for women who are released from prison. Research hasindicated that it is only 4 out of 10 females released from prisonwho are able to find gainful employment after one year of theirrelease (Vito &amp Maahs, 2012). In addition, females who arereleased are cut off from benefits their used to receive prior totheir incarceration such as welfare, social security as well asunemployment insurance. It is estimated that 42% of females releasedare prior beneficiaries of such benefits (Feinman, 2007). Thecriminal justice system does not have any follow up measures onreleased female prisoners to ensure that they secure a job and canearn a living.

Lastly, in the numerous cases that have been there involvingdivorce, women have been the ones allocated the duty of taking careof the children albeit with the financial support of the divorcedhusband. This has largely been seen as unfair and as a form of skewedjustice. Although the criminal justice system has vowed to maintainequality in the administration of justice and maintaining socialorder, it is clear that more needs to be done (Feinman, 2007). Thecriminal justice system must come up with policies that will addressthe issues affecting women in their hands. The justice system mustrealize that women have special needs unlike men and therefore theirspecial needs must be addressed accordingly.


Feinman, C. (2007). Women in the criminal justice system.Westport, Conn: Praeger.

Immarigeon, R., &amp Civic Research Institute. (2006). Women andgirls in the criminal justice system: Policy issues and practicestrategies. Kingston, NJ: Civic Research Institute.

Sanders, J., &amp Hamilton, V. L. (2010). Handbook of justiceresearch in law. New York: Kluwer Academic/Plenum Publishers.

Vito, G. F., &amp Maahs, J. R. (2012). Criminology: Theory,research, and policy. Sudbury, Mass: Jones &amp BartlettLearning.