The issue of feminist criminology was ignored by professionals until recently. The rich history of male criminology does not extend to women. Female rates of offending were always lower than male, and they are predominantly incarcerated for minor offences such as theft, fraud, minor assaults, and drug related crimes. Early theories of feminist criminology suggest that women’s crime was a result of their liberation and equal rights with men. It is also related to their violent abuse in the past. As a rule, women begin their offending early in life and display antisocial behaviour. The delinquency rate for female is considerably lower for every type of crime than for the male. Feminist criminology does not exist in the vacuum, and it requires theoretical explanation applicable to their offending.
Gender-Based Theories of Criminality
Most scholars contend that feminism has become the main reason for female criminology. On their way to gender equality, some of them inherited male offending behaviour. Gender-based theories of criminality are associated with gender or sex differences. If gender theories refer to social definition characterised by appearance and occupations, then sex theories are based on biological characteristics such as hormones and reproductive organs. Belknap illustrates the complexity of these two concepts that point to a binary category where gender is a product of social behaviour. Feminist theories such as liberal feminism, radical feminism, Marxist and social feminism and postmodern feminism were applied to criminology. Gender-based differences and inequalities identify crime, female victimization, and different treatment of women. Thus, a liberal theory argues that women should have the same rights and treatment as men. Within the area of feminist criminology, some criminologists believe that the liberal perspective poses men as the criminal yardstick.
While the historical feminist achievements were successful for women, they have certain disadvantages that worsen women’s circumstances. Radical feminism was determined by personal feelings, relationships, and behaviors. Belknap assume that Madonna duality has been reflected by the criminal justice system for many centuries that is grounded on female nature or gender. However, this theory was covered mainly white, middle- and upper-class women. In the USA, black women were victimized by their double status as black and as women. Another gender-based theory of criminology is femininity and the cult of true womanhood. Lombroso explained female criminology by their psychological and physiological determinants such as prostitution. Freud was among early theorists of female deviant behaviour that encourages them to behave like men. According to him, the best way to treat a criminal woman is to adjust her to the sexual role. Otto Pollak believes that female criminology reflects women’s biological nature, and there are more criminal women that might be seen from the first sight.
Women’s Unique Pathways into Crime
Criminologists recognize that there are many pathways to criminality to women. Many findings reveal that there are five pathway perspectives to crime such as 1) street women, 2) battered women, 3) harming and harmed women, 4) drug-connected and 5) other women. Street women are those who have bad relationship with their parents or have sexual abuse in the home. Battered women are those who are involving in crime by violent men, such as first-degree manslaughter, second-degree assault, or reckless endangerment. Harmed and harming women are the ones who survive in the streets by prostitution, hustling, or selling drugs. These women usually have more extensive arrest than others. Drug-connected women sell or use drugs in connection with their boyfriends. The fifth category of women is those whose life experience does not fall under the other categories.
There are differences and similarities between female and male pathways to crime. For example, male pathways into crime are often associated with the desire to reflect their masculinity, gaming, or bad luck while female pathways often link with the abusing activity of their partners. Women with low self-esteem are often at risk as well as family variables are often the main reasons for female criminology. Low-class status increases female violent offending, especially among white women. The research asserts that based on the pathway perspective, it is important to implement gender-responsive policies for feminist offenders that could be based on their specific needs.
Effective Treatment of Women
The above mentioned women’s unique pathways into crime have shown the lack of social concern related to women at risk. In spite of women emancipation, they are not as strong as man physiologically, and they often cannot resist hardships in their lives. The society should provide social assistance to these categories maintain them with employment and shelters. Research suggests that female offenders have social, emotional, and physical differences with men that require different services. Gender-responsive programs and services should be focused on the realities of their lives. For example, women are more often abused sexually compared to men, and they need psychological rehabilitation. Drugs addiction programs can be applicable both to men and women, and they can be implemented in the correctional facilities for both genders. The first initiatives appeared in the late 1990s that proposed effective management and programming for female offenders.
Many studies identified the main six principles of treating female offenders. The criminal justice system should consider gender, environment, socioeconomic status, relationship, services and supervision, and community. First of all, the authorities should admit that gender makes a difference. To help feminist offenders, the authorities should maintain a safe and respectful environment where women can feel secure. Women need financial contributions to improve their socioeconomic status. Appropriate supervision and services may protect women from abuse and trauma. The community can also contribute into women’s wellbeing creating a system of community supervision. Belknap assumes that gender is the key principal in terms of how women who have problems with criminal justice system should be treated.
The Differences in Women’s And Men’s Needs
Although, both men and women adapt to life in prison, they experience differences in their behaviour. Women seem not to hold as much allegiance to the inmate code as their male counterparts do. Female prefer to affiliate with one or a couple of friends while male tend to affiliate with the majority of inmate population. Thus, women engage in the interpersonal relationship with small groups of people. Admittedly, interpersonal relationships in prison are often based on distrust and manipulation, and more than 60 per cent of inmates feel loneliness in prison. Sexual relationships are also distributed among female offenders that prove homosexuality among them, and many women engage in sexual relationships with other inmates because of different reasons such as a feeling of a sense of self-worth.
In fact, homosexuality is based on the common adoption in prison life. Female represent a low safety risk than male because they usually come to prison for nonviolent crimes. Therefore, within correctional facilities, the rate of aggression and violence among women is rather low compared to men. Women pose more successful outcomes when corrections staff use trauma informed strategies. In order to understand women’s trauma, they should be trained to solve their psychological problems in prison. Misconduct, mental health referrals, inmate-inmate and inmate-staff assault are the issues that require trauma-informed strategies to solve problems.
Feminist criminology has its peculiarities compared to male. Women are assaulted mainly for nonviolent crimes and are not as aggressive as men. Gender differences are important and should be taken into consideration by the corrections staff. Female offenders have social, emotional, and physical differences between men that require different services Offending women have different needs and pathways to prison then men. Gender is the key principal in terms of how women who have problems with criminal justice system should be treated.