How does gender affect treatment in the criminal justice system?

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pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Gender affects the way that people are treated in the criminal justice system in many ways.  These impacts can often seem contradictory.  Let us look at two ways in which women are treated differently than men in the criminal justice system.

First, our attitudes towards women make it so that women are less likely to be treated as harshly as men by the criminal justice system if they commit crimes.  We have an image of women that makes it harder for us to perceive them as serious criminals.  An example of this might be found in the statistics on murders and the death penalty.  Women commit 10% of all murders in the US but only make up about 3% of the people who are executed.  There may be factors other than gender that help to explain this, but it at least implies that we are less likely to execute women than men.

Second, our attitudes towards women often make it so the criminal justice system is harder on them when they are victims of some sorts of crimes.  The system is notoriously hard on women who allege that they have been victims of sex crimes.  They are often treated as if the crime is their fault.

In these ways, our attitudes towards women sometimes skew the system in their favor but sometimes makes it work against them.