Women and their roles in the criminal justice system

From 2003, criminal justice system in the UK has been under the observation of Fawcett’s commission especially with more emphasis on how it relates to women. The commission paid so much attention on women’s experiences as offenders, victims and workers in the system and a conclusion was made that women continue to suffer under the system which was designed for men and by men.

It emerged that women continue to be imprisoned even without committing crimes that are violent. The system has also failed in protecting, supporting and providing women, who are violence victims, with justice. It was also established that women are not given the top jobs in the system especially in the areas of legal profession, prison and judiciary and this makes one wonder what is the place of women in the system in regards to their roles as victims ,offenders and professionals (Fawcett’s Society, 2009). This essay shows that women victims, offenders and professionals are in one way or another treated very differently from their male counterparts in all areas of the criminal justice system.Women as victims in the systemObservation has been made in Scotland that, the experiences that women go through in the criminal and justice system reflect what is going on in the broader contexts of society and politics. The issue of gender equality has also found its way into these justice systems (Flack, nd). Recently, there have emerged a lot of concerns especially in regards to women as victims in the system.

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All women victims are usually treated the same when there is need for some cases to be given special attention or treatment. For example those cases related to discrimination against women and the ones that abuse intimacy should be given special treated.  It has been discovered that, so many government officials do not want to be associated with the term ‘feminists’ and thus they run away from the reality that women are usually treated badly in our systems.

The laws that are being used are seen to be patterned according to the measures men have put to determine which is an acceptable conduct and which one is not (Kennedy, 2005).The Fawcett’s commission established that, women have problems in reporting their cases especially those ones involved with rape and domestic violence. Since the criminal justice system is male dominated, it is putting off these women who are victims of crime. The latter are said to fear because they do not trust those men of authority and this includes even the police (Baird et al, 2003).Prostitutes and women who have been trafficked to do the same , also fear the authority so much even though they claim that the same authority has a part to play for the kind of life they are living.

The women who are victims of this trafficking claim that, they are usually treated as illegal immigrants by the same system. Those who have gone through the experience of domestic violence claim that, they cannot report their cases because the system will not be able to protect them in case the violence perpetrators decide to retaliate. Sometimes, the police fail even to investigate these cases and this one makes women to see no point of reporting them (Baird et al, 2003).Rape victims are also afraid of reporting their cases for they fear that the court will blame them for the crimes committed against them because of how they were dressed at the time the crime was being committed. They believe that the courts are usually on the side of men to the extent that they will rule in their favor.

With these claims, it emerged that there are some gaps on how the police treat rape cases. It was discovered that, the police usually throw away evidence that would have been very crucial in rape cases. For example, the DNA samples were never sent to national DNA database for analysis and since most of the perpetrators of rape were serial criminals, they ended up being free due to lack of evidence (Baird et a, 2003).The police are supposed to keep the victims of violence informed about the development of their cases but it was found out that, they actually do not. Sometimes, cases are dropped without the knowledge of the victims. The commission also discovered that, most rape and domestic violence cases do not reach the prosecutors’ desks because most of the time, the police  look for the weaknesses of the cases and associate them with the myths about rapes and such like things. This has been found to undermine how these cases have being handled by the police.

Some times in domestic violence cases, there is a communication break down between the police and the state prosecutor and this leads to loss of information about the cases. Some women complained to the commission that some of these domestic violence cases are sometimes dropped or even treated as lesser offences without the complainants’ consenting (Baird et al, 2003).When it comes to the court, the victim of rape sometimes is not informed of how the legal process goes and thus they find themselves unable to tell who the defender is and who the prosecutor is. They also complained that most of the time while in court, they always felt as if they were the ones on trial. Sometimes rape cases are usually fixed to take place at any time and the complainants sometimes are not informed of when their cases will start .and some of them take very long time to get to court (Baird et al, 2003).Women as offenders in the systemThe question has always been asked; should women offenders be treated differently from male offenders? Will treating them that way be effective in reforming them? (Chesney, nd).

Crimes committed by females are usually considered to be offences which do not pose major problems compared to the ones committed by men. From long time ago, the former have been identified with minor offences and that is why they are very few in the population of offenders in the system. Today, things seem to change in that, there has been a rise in violent crimes committed by women (US Department of Justice, 2010).So many things emerge in regards to women as offenders, right from their sanitary needs to their children’s care. Most of these women have dependants and thus the Fawcett’s commission recommended that, before an offender is incarcerated, he or she should be asked whether they have dependants at home or not (Baird et al, 2003).The commission established that prostitutes have to put up with some explicit comments from the police.

Some women who may not speak English were seen to be handled aggressively and they had problems claiming their rights. Sometimes cases involving black women from the Caribbean countries were not allowed to continue because the police may have not collected enough evidence or they did not intend to (Baird et al, 2003). Concerns were also raised regarding women who were accused of killing their abusive partners (husbands or lovers). Sometimes, these women failed to give information at the trial on how they were abused by their deceased partners because it might be claimed that, they were trying to gain some sympathy since they had not mentioned it before to the police. Their lawyers, just like the police may also fail to mention them. Many women have also complained about how they do not have close contact with their lawyers especially when they are in remand. Although these lawyers may be well trained, they may not have any experience to deal with such situations (Baird et al, 2003).

It also emerged that these criminal justice systems do not have good child care facilities. This has posed so many problems to both women offenders and witnesses who would be required to attend court sessions most of the time. Those who were remanded also had the same problem. Sometimes they will have their children handled by court ushers who will be baby- sitting the children at court’s waiting areas, which are not the best areas for children (Baird et al, 2003).

It was also established that when magistrates were sentencing women, they tended to see them as troubled people and not troublesome, and thus they took the approach of trying to help while sentencing them. Sometimes fining women seemed not to be suitable due to their financial conditions. They were thus denied some   sentencing options making them to reach prison easily than their male counterparts.

This answers the question of why there are so many women in jails who have never been convicted before. Women who were found guilty of killing their abusive partners, always found themselves convicted of murder charges rather than man slaughter regardless of whether they were defending themselves or not when the crime was being committed (Baird et al, 2003)It also emerged that resources in the probation facilities were directed to high risk offenders, for example those who have been convicted of sexual crimes. This group is mainly made up of male offenders.

Programs for offenders are also designed for males. With these kinds of programs, there is a high probability that some women who are victims of sexual abuse will find themselves in a group dominated by men (Baird et al, 2003).Women as professionals in the systemOver the years, women’s roles have increased in the criminal judicial system. For a long period of time, this system has mostly been dominated by men (Calhoun, 2009).When it comes to the police force, from long time ago, there was division of labor based on gender. Most female police officers have been dealing with cases such as child neglect, female offenders among others touching on family matters.

In the UK, only 19% of the police force is made up of women and to worsen the situation, they all occupy the lower ranks. The first appointment of a woman as a chief constable happened in the year 1995 and today, only 5 women are chief constables among the 43 constables in England and Wales (Baird et al, 2004).To move up the ladder in the police force, may take a long time and this is quite disadvantageous to women since most of them may take some time out to raise families. It was discovered that when women apply for jobs in the police force, they have to wait until when they feel they are fit and competent for the position but for men is different. They just apply for the jobs with an attitude of giving it a shot. Many women in the police force are lobbying for changes to be done on the recruitment system since the current ones are of disadvantage to them. The recruiting teams usually concentrate on the strength of the upper body, which is a characteristic of men.

It was also found out that in areas such as crime detection units, women are very few (Baird et al, 2004).Unlike in the US, England and Wales have a divided legal protection. There are barristers and solicitors. In these two states, they have 40% women solicitors among 90,000. Among 11,000 barristers, they only make 30% of them. It was also found out that women who are employed on contracts by law firms are paid less than men who work in the same places and the payment gap is still widening. It has also been difficult for women lawyers who are experienced to be promoted.

It has emerged that when women lawyers clock the age of thirty, they leave the profession just at the time when they are supposed to be partners. This also happens when women want to start a family or when they want to go for maternity leave (Baird et al, 2004).As pertains to the matters of the judiciary, women are also underrepresented especially in senior positions. There has been flaws being noticed when it comes to the recruitment of judges because most of the time women candidates have to declare their marital status. Sometimes, the candidates need to be recommended by senior judges and this has been found to inconvenience most women candidates (Baird et al, 2004).In conclusion, it has emerged that, almost all criminal and justice systems including the one in the US, UK and Scotland have some thing in common.

Women victims, offenders and professionals are in one way or another treated very differently from their male counterparts in all areas.



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