Essay on Influence of Women on the Criminal and Justice System in Chicago

Published: 2022/01/11
Number of words: 4673


Criminal justice system in the United States has a crucial role in maintaining law and order within the federal and state levels. Incarceration of criminal provides a base to reforming their habits. Men have always been the centre point in criminal justice. Laws relating to criminal justice relate to men more than they relate to women. Female offenders numbers have been increasing in the criminal facilities. Women have increased their consumption of alcohol and drugs. Women in the society are less fortunate as compared to men; they are economically less powerful. Gender disparity is an issue that needs attention of all stakeholders in the criminal justice system. This paper tries to define why gender inequality is of vast importance. It defines the position of women in the justice system and their roles. The paper reviews previous scholarly papers and uses percentages in analyzing data.


In the recent decade, the numbers of female offenders in prisons have increased. This dramatic shift has an effect in the justice system in U.S.A. In 1990, the justice system estimated that there were about 600,000 female prisoners within prisons. The number has dramatically increased to one million according to records of the year 2000. Even though the number of female offenders is much, lower than that of men it is essential to understand contributions made by women to the justice system. Looking at the National Institute of Justice data it is evident that the number of female prisoners in federal and state prisons has increased marginally (Barlow, & Barlow, 2002). Despite all of this information, women are less likely to be involved in criminal activities than men are.

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Despite having many female offenders in prisons, most of those incarcerated represent minor offenders. By the year 1999, two third of female offenders in prisons were serving fewer offences. Women arrests and charges relate to minor offences that relate to drug and property. Drug offences are the main contributor of female offenders in prisons now. Drug offences represent over 36% of women arrested; it is vital to note that women arrested for violent crimes has been on the increase since the year 1998 this is due to changes in the position of the woman in today’s society. Women in today’s America feel liberated; they fully understand their rights. Interestingly the rate of women committing murders has dramatically decreased; this rate has been on the decline since the year 1998. Most of the violent crimes committed by women relates to a partner, spouse or ex- boyfriend. Most of women who commit crimes complain of being sexually of physically abused by the person they have assaulted (Johnson, & Waldfogel, 2002).

The increase in the number of women in prisons has shaped policies within the U.S.A. these led to changes on drug policies, change in the legal and the academic view of lawbreakers. Ignoring the causes of crime and what causes one to do offensive acts is punitive. State and federal institutions related to justice must understand the social implications of offenders and develop laws on sentencing. Although female offenders pose less danger to the society as compared to men, the justice system is discriminatory when it comes to sentencing. The current sentencing procedures reflect on male issues therefore, ignoring reality of women. Ignoring women when developing sentencing laws, is discriminatory since women’s characteristics and their roles are different from men (Johnson, & Waldfogel, 2002).

For a long time now, criminological theories have focused on the male criminality. Researchers view men as perfect criminal subjects; historically women theories relating to criminality have bases on the psychological and biological characteristics of women. The theories also consider the social and economic status of women. Theorists of this age tended to define women characteristics individually without considering theories of men. The disturbing thing to note is that theorist of this standing, employ assumptions relating to the psyche of women and without empirical barking. Theorists that precede the first produce traditional theories. These theories explain male criminality to women. These strategies produce a problem. Feminists described that science as characteristics of men rather than social reality. The approach means that women exist in their difference from men. Recent research has yielded information in understanding women lives that go beyond the simple comparison of men and women. Re-analysis raises questions about ones gender and relating to disciplines of sociological studies and criminology.

Is Treatment of women equal?

Feminist scholars documented the practice of human beings to value their masculine needs in a variety of ways. In developing appropriate services for women, it is essential to understand the gender differences between men and women. We need to look at the gender dynamics we face in the world. In the case of masculinity theories, masculine desires and values is crucial for men thus making women invisible. This means that women relevance in major activities of the world remains low therefore, acts as a form of oppression. Where the issue of sexism is rampant, a dynamic gender orientation comes to mind. Gender neutral or genderless is in face male dominated. The same is true in relating to race in a racial society where certain individuals are race neutral (Barlow, & Barlow, 2002). The true realities of the race and gender differences in the United States of America appear to influence almost all women in the judicial system.

Disparity in race remains a factor for arrests, pretrial activities and in sentencing. It is imperative to note that Black American women incarcerated represents a slightly higher percentage than their white counterparts are. Women of color incarcerated in the prisons represent a third of all women incarcerated at the state and federal prisons. The rising number of women of color in prisons causes an increase in population in prisons. Therefore, there is a need to understand the importance of separating sex from that of racial differences. While the difference of sex relates to biological orientation, gender relates to the social orientation of a person. The difference between the two is that gender influences stem from the society, but sex orientation either male or female influence sex (Rand et al 1998). These two terms remain different in context and remain interchangeable. Gender is all about daily encounters that women undergo in the world.

There have been debates if women tend to receive better treatment than men do in the past; from these studies, it is true that women in today’s prisons receive better treatment than back in the days. Women offenders incarcerated today represent a large percentage than at any other time in history. This shows that the criminal justice is prepared and willing to incarcerate women than previously practiced. Moreover, debates surfaced on whether equality in the justice system favors women. Policy makers argue that the only way to end the inequality; is by developing legislations to fight for equalization in the justice system to shield women offenders from discrimination. They argue that equal treatment will have a negative impact in the short run, but this will make them have an edge in the end. The goal of making women equal is to ensure that they have a place in the society, which raises their prospects of contributing to the state (Huebner, 2010). Other theorists argue that women are victims of the oppressive judicial and criminal system.

There are those who oppose the motion of the debate, maintain that, women are not, and will never be the same as men. They further state that gender difference needs consideration and women’s individual needs recognized. This therefore, means that women would receive preferential treatment as long as this position does not endanger them further. This is a better standard to use unlike the use of men’s standards (Huebner, 2010).

Another approach looks at both equal treatment and the view of special needs. The model accepts the dominant factor of men. This means that, women would demand their rights equating it to that of men (Rand et al 1998). In addition, there is the need to consider differential needs, which postulates that women have needs different from that of men. In this regard, women’s position benchmarked of men characteristics this makes men the dominance race, which further causes inequality. Scholars have been identifying the deficiency in laws relating to equality of men and women. These models are truly essential in reforming the justice system of the United States of America. Sentencing reforms relates to the gender-neutral sentencing, where the aim is to reduce gender disparity within the justice system (Huebner, 2010). These reforms ensure that the judicial system punishes crimes equally irrespective of gender. Emphasis on gender parity and setting standard based on men will not only endanger women but also destroy their freedom.

The use of equality means that women in prisons par as equals to men. This means that they receive the worst treatment. For example in the United States boot camps have gain recognition in a majority of state and federal prisons. Women and female juveniles suffer humiliation since they are required to shave their hair, wear uniforms and abused by prison warders. The issue of chain gangs has become a phenomenon as documented in Maricopa, Arizona. The current model of justice popularly referred to as the equalization utilizes men standards on women; therefore, this means that men and women incarcerated in different locations, which propagates inequality in the end. Mandatory sentences that do not consider gender differences hurt women the most. Laws on drugs contribute to the ever-rising number of women incarcerations. Therefore, it is true to say that, equal treatment is not equal to fair treatment since women’s place in the society is different to that of men in terms of the economy or sexual orientation.

Women’s prison experiences

Gender differences influence standards of procedures used in the judicial system. The criminal and the judicial system ignore the behavioral differences between man and women within the system. Women and men treatment are equal neglecting the difference of needs between the two genders.

Bail offers

Bail’s intention was to protect the public from incarcerations relating to petty crimes. Women offenders, who commit non-violent crimes, have to pay for bail in order to remain out of prison. The use of bail disadvantaged women a lot; this is because a majority of women is poor. Unskilled and do not have permanent jobs. Surveys conducted on most prisons prove that two thirds of female inmates in jails had work at the time of their arrests. Women are disadvantaged because of their socio economic standing within a society. Unlike men who post bail for partners, most female offenders do not have someone to bail them out in case of arrests (Rand et al 1998).

In a study conducted in a pre trial jail for female detainees, it is a fact that women in these facilities are of non-violent nature. They represent a fraction of female prisoners jailed not only for their crimes but also to their inability to post for bail. Another research study found out those women offenders who were in employment before arrests fall at the lower cadre of the society. This means that the majorities of these women do not have sufficient funds to post for bails or even cater for their basic needs. Moreover, data from the census department of 1997 reports that women in America earn less than 74 percent of what men earn. This shows that there is a magnificent disparity of the social economic status of individuals based on gender. When bail price is equal for both male and female offenders, men are more likely to post for bail compared to women (Hannah, 2004).


Mandatory sentences relating to drug related offences are increasing the number of female prisoners in correctional facilities. Women offenders that would have previously been sentenced community service sentences are now being and incarcerated thus, increasing their population in the prison system. Women drug arrests represent 95-percentage increase while that of men has just increased by 55 percent. Although we can say that drugs have led to the increase in women in prisons, majority of those incarcerated represent the African American population. This shows that women of color represent a majority of female offenders arrested for drug related offences.

According to Pollack (2007), it is a reality that the drug wars have become a war against women. Nationally the number of women arrested because drug related offences has increased to a whole high of 888 percent since the year 1996. Drug related offences represent 91 percent increase in female prisoners in the Ney York State., 26 percent of those in Minnesota State and 55 percent of those in California. Women of color bear the greatest burden in this drug war, according to a sentencing endeavor between the years 1986 to 1991, the population within federal and state prisons provides an 828-percentage increase in the number of African America women, 241 percent of white women and 328 percent of Latinas.

Harsh mandatory laws coupled with the minimum amounts of fines one has to pay for federal crimes, has affected women. These new guidelines intend to reduce racial, gender, economic and other disparities within the population. Other disparities in relation to men and sentencing have negative effects on women (Hannah, 2004); Female drug traffickers receive a mandatory sentence of fifteen years of even life sentences according to the law. These laws tend to ignore distinctions present between men and women. The level playing field in the justice system is not fair to women offenders.

Studies have shown that 40 percent of women incarcerated in state prisons are more likely to do drugs as compared to 32pecent of men. The report points out those women offenders are at risk of drug use. It is an assumption that women drug users tend to be involved in prostitution, property crimes and other drug related habits in order to support purchases of drugs (Siegel, & Zelman, 1991).

Mother to child contact

Statistics from the bureau of justice reports that in the year 1997, approximately 65 percent of women in a state correctional facility and 59 percent of those women in federal institutions had minors. The number of women offenders with minors had doubled by 2000. The bureau estimated in the year 1999 that over 126,000 children in the United States had a mother in prison. In a study conducted in the year 1995, over 80 percent of those interviewed were mothers in California, majority of them were single mothers and custodial parents to their children.

Separation between a mother and a child is the most frustrating situation any mother can undergo. Lack of contact between a child and a mother is further agitated, due to prison laws requiring prisoners to see their spouses and relatives within a defined time and dates. In some cases, there is a permanent separation between a mother and a child. Forced separation provides a permanent termination of relationships between mother and child forcing these children to seek foster care (Hannah, 2004).

In the year, 1998 the bureau undertook a study to estimate the number of times children visit their parents in incarceration. The study provides that, 54 percent of children constantly visited their mothers in prisons and their children while in custody did not visit 54 percent of mothers. According to the bureau of justice, the geographical distance between the child and jails seem to be the main reason for them not visiting.

Correctional programming

Historically there were no services to cater for the needs of women. These made institutions mandated to providing correctional facilities to female offenders to change their strategies, the U.S.A congress has passed legislations that mandate female offenders to acquire equal services in quality and quantity as that offered to their male counterparts. Litigation is a term used to indicate parity issues; these parity issues have exposed female offenders to low quality services making them at risk. Therefore, for parity and fairness to occur, female incarceration facilities need to copy men programs (Stack, 2002).

Correctional facilities for women historically relate to the male criminal paths and their criminality levels. Correctional facilities and programs tend to have focus on men. Policies of the state and at the federal level tend to focus on the needs of men ignoring the disparity between the two genders. The criminal justice system fails to develop and identify policies that satisfy the needs of women without referring to men focused policies. Justice departments should develop policies that look at the needs of women prisoners to solve corruption (Snell et al 2009).

According to Hannah-Moffat (2004), past theories focusing on the cognitive and behavioral theories by the Ottawa School, have formulated a theory called “psychology of criminal conduct”. An important thing to note is that crucial focus on human psychology is essential for better regulation. There has been a shift from the above theories to the relational theorist. Relational theories focus on the changing patterns, connections, and interdependence of an individual’s relationship needs. In developing theories and strategies focus, one ought to avoid using cognitive and emotive approaches to understanding a person since these methods ignores vital factors about the individual. The strategy avoids the difference and complexity of a person’s experience.

Over the years, researches on women by scholars provide vital information on women needs and problems; through studies on mental health, trauma treatment and drug abuse, researchers have come up with tentative information on women. Even though knowledge on women is critical in managing the judicial system, its application on the judicial system needs to take shape. Majority of services offered to women in the judicial system ignores the difference between men and women, which affects women treatment. Understanding of these programs will reduce women susceptibility to violence and abuse (Chesney-Lind, 1986). Most of the justice professions understand the needs of women, but they seem not to have a method to differentiate between interventions for women and the general objective of the correctional system. Justice system practitioners need to be gender sensitive and should offer training to foster knowledge development.

Response Strategies and Recommendations

Strategies of Management

Procedures used in correctional settings have a direct influence on women who report histories of trauma, abuse and mental diseases. Women in correctional facilities are more likely to have experienced sexual and mental abuse while at the institution. Triggers that cause post-Traumatic stress disorders; need recognition and its influence stopped before it causes harm on an individual’s mental capacity (Mann, 1990). According to a survey done in the year 2001 on women in US jails, it is an estimate that 22 percent of women have experienced Post-Traumatic stress disorder 16 percent diagnosed with chronic depression, and a number of suicides reported.

Another study done in the year 1998 provides vital information on abuse within women jails. Approximately that over 80 percent of women in jails has undergone abuse in one way or another. Most of these women proclaim to have encountered abusive moments when they were children or as adults. This data points out that most women offenders have a history of abuse, which is a driving force for their criminal acts. Women in these facilities report to being sexually abused either repeatedly or once. These findings imply that there is a problem in these correctional facilities and urgent measures need consideration to save women offenders from self-destruction (Reinarman, & Levine, 1997).

Gender is a gauge when making choices on the severity of disciplinary procedures used in the judicial system. Comparing two prison facilities in Chicago shows a disparity in the methods in disciplining inmates, one of the facilities houses women inmates and other housing male inmates. The researcher found out that, women treatment is harsher than men are; the severities of their punishments were much higher than that of men. From this study, it is evident to say that female prisoners in the U.S is harshly treated and punished in correctional facilities as opposed to male prisoners.

The researcher further notes that wardens in female prison demand compliance to every single law and violation of any leads to severe punishment (Mann, 1990). Surveillance in female institutions is much higher than that of male inmates. This information suggests that inequality in the judicial system may be a result to gender inequalities. Where men treatment is fair, and the rules tend to restrict women more than men. Therefore, there is a need to change laws and institutions of justice need to find better ways of dealing with female offenders.

Returning back to the Community

Women from prison sentences need to comply to some rules. These conditions relate to probation or parole they need to achieve financial sustainability, they need to access medical facilities and try to unite with community members. In addition to this, women need to find employment, maintain a drug free lifestyle and seek medical attention relating to drug addiction. However, former female offenders end up in environments not conducive for sober living, end up being homeless and in many cases fall back to their criminal activities or substance abuse. Majority of women in prisons have minors; therefore, they need financial, moral and encouragement when they finish their sentences and go back home. Nevertheless, this is not the case in the judicial system. Women need to fend for themselves, devise means of surviving which in most cases leads them to more activities that are criminal (Bosworth, & Fili, 2013).

How to Assist Female Offenders

The major question to ask in judicial literature is if the method ones method will work. However, since women offenders seem not to be present in setting policies, we have to formulate responses to the question, which are:

Create a gender response system

We need to provide female offenders with services that are practical and applicable. The first thing to consider when making these services is if by applying it, we would be able to solve women’s problems. It should be a comprehensive response where the realities women face in the justice system. Programs need to take into consideration issue relating to poverty, rape, physical abuse and gender inequalities within the system. Services should also be responsive of the cultural background of individuals (Mann, 1990). Talking about the environment, one lays emphasis in the family, class, race or work of an individual. Like we have seen, earlier women have less economic power as compared to men and undertake most of household’s chores in a family. Women in low-income houses are caretakers and they face many challenges in parenting. Women have a unique ability since they are the only ones who get pregnancy and therefore they experience all pains relating to childbirth.

While providing some services one should always ensure to be in no conflict with the cultural values of a community, the services provided need to contrast the federal and national governments policies. Therefore creating an effective gender response system needs time and knowledge. Service providers need to select the site of their work, recruit workforce, and institute policies that are gender sensitive. The strategy should also communicate services offered and all expected outcomes (Huebner, 2010).

Building Rapport with the community

There is a need to develop a system that is responsive of the demands of the community. Organizations providing services first have to win the hearts of community members in order to prosper. Assistance is a need in the areas of housing, job creation, transportation, Family management, childcare, drug treatment and alcohol management. Women transition from jails to the society should be a smooth sail (Cohn, & Farrington, 2007). This therefore means that planning is a crucial tool by the responsible department to ensure that women have an activity to fall back to when they complete their sentences.

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Women offenders are good listeners when it comes to community based correctional initiatives. Since women offenders commit far much less crime than men they pose less harm to the society unlike their male counterparts. Therefore female offenders need fair treatment with much more reason since they contribute a lot to the society in terms of care giving. It is a fact that most women offenders are mothers. Children of incarcerated mothers need care, support, and this call for communities’ response. Good gender sensitive initiatives need the support of the community. Community plays a vital role is shaping and guiding female offenders. The service support team needs to consider women’s strengths and weaknesses when drafting policies. Moreover, women need fair treatment considering their social networks. Good systems have the ability to integrate all aspects of the judicial system. The system has to consider the influence of family, public health, housing, child welfare, drug abuse and the criminal justice departments (Huebner, 2010). Effective support systems consider the needs of female offenders from the time of arrest to the time when a woman goes back to a community.


This juncture, explains the necessary roles a woman plays in a society. Women play a very vital role in the criminal justice system and their contribution need considerations. Justice systems should review and study offenders backgrounds and have a clear mechanism in addressing women’s criminality. Criminal justice departments could improve the lives of female offenders by understanding their experiences, which assist in developing response programs. It is crucial to re analyze gender effects on the judicial system. Influences of drug and substances on women offenders need further consideration. Mandatory laws on drug related offences have hugely promoted women incarceration. There is a need for the government and the federal authorities in Chicago to develop programs, which train women, provide healthcare support services provide housing and childcare services. The community need sensitization on reforming the judicial system and finally women should not be incarcerated as men; community based programs are appropriate for women. Reintegration of women into the society not only benefits them but the society in general.


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