Women and Crime: A Reference Handbook

Women and Crime: A Reference Handbook

Women and Crime: A Reference Handbook

Women and Crime: A Reference Handbook

Synopsis

Women and Crime: A Reference Handbook examines how women's patterns of offending have changed over time in America, from the Colonial period to the present. The book sets the stage with a historical overview of women's criminal activity. Subsequent chapters cover such topics as changes in women's status and patterns of offending; the impact of childhood abuse on the development of criminality; and how changes in law, the War on Drugs, and other crime policy have, in fact, increased the frequency of women's imprisonment and arrests. International issues, such as legalization of prostitution, sex trafficking, and women's involvement in organized crime, including drug cartels, are also explored.

Each chapter examines theory, research, law, policy, and key players in the evolving response to women's crime patterns. Throughout the work, the author links women's status, victimization, and offending patterns, and suggests how crime control policy, far from saving women, is increasingly making it impossible for female offenders to live on the outside.

Excerpt

Women constitute a small and neglected population within our jails and prisons. In this era of emphasis on equality, gender difference does matter in the explanation of how women become criminal offenders. An era of crime control emphasizes incapacitation, the doing of time without rehabilitative measures to keep offenders off the street. This has led to overcrowded prisons that lack physical and mental health facilities to keep women healthy. The inhumanity of incapacitation has led to conditions in which women prisoners with mental illness are not given medicine or counseled, and routine health care is limited. The Eighth Amendment to the Constitution specifies that punishment should not be “cruel or unusual.” The packing of women prisoners into underfunded facilities that include prisons-forprofit is meant to protect society, but has allowed the public to turn its back on gendered needs.

The drive to incarcerate women and men has its roots in patriarchal tradition: the management of political, economic, and family life by men. From the period of colonization until the 20th century, women were confined to traditional gender roles and subject to extensive social control. Patriarchal ideology and social structure simultaneously problematized women’s sexuality and made them subject to intimate physical and sexual victimization. Women’s rise toward equality has not uniformly benefited women of varying social class and race and ethnic background. Women offenders tend to be poor minority women who have yet to benefit from new opportunities as they strive to obtain an education in defunded public schools and deal with family violence and street crime. When women united for a new future, the privileged forged new opportunities and often neglected the diversity within their ranks.

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