For along time women or female offenders have always been treated in a lenient manner by the justice system by virtue of them being women, a gender that is considered weak in comparison to their male counterparts. However with the reforms that have taken place in the justice system female offenders are now finding themselves facing harsher penalties than the male offenders? Why is this case and how fair and effective is the new reforms in the justice system.
This discussion seeks to finds answers to these and more question regarding punishment of female offenders (Bryant, 2003). As mentioned earlier, women have always been dealt with in a lenient manner in comparison with men when it comes to crime. However more recently the justice system has made some reforms which ensure that that female offender receive harsher punishments.
The argument of this reform is that women have been taking advantage of the leniency and thus intentionally involve themselves in crime. However this move has led to a public outcry with many arguing that female ought to be given lighter punishment than male offenders. Despite this public outcry the reformers argue that it is not fair for a female offender to receive a lighter punishment just because she is female. They claim that punishment should match with the crime committed (Zaplin, 1998).
Home Secretary Charles Clarke as much as he agrees that punishment should match with crime committed he has also cautioned reformers not to ignore they key role played by women in the society starting from the family level which is the basic social unit of a society. He argues that instead of introducing harsh penalties for female offenders, it would work much better to have some rehabilitation centers where female offenders can be taken for correctional purposes.
These centers will only cater for women offenders who have committed crimes that are non-violent in nature. They will include those involved in drugs, mental health problems, and domestic violence among others. Many argue that by locking women in jails and meting harsh punishments, many homes and families will be broken. In addition they argue that the causes of women to commit crimes are different from that of the men and therefore even the approach of punishment ought to be different and in this case, lighter.
Research also indicates that giving female offenders harsh punishments including locking them in jails of many years have adverse effects on their mental health. Statistics indicate that at least three in every five women attempt suicide while in jail. This is as result of depression due to the separation from their families and especially their children (Bryant, 2003). Females are naturally more emotional than men and therefore more likely to be overwhelmed by the punishment meted to them, and eventually they succumb.
Despite the various arguments and counter arguments that have been put forward stating that women should receive lighter punishment, reformers have still stuck to their argument. Norman Brennan argues that as much as it is alright to have women put in rehabilitation centers some women who have resulted in violent crimes must face the full force of the law by being punished according to the law. She argues that this is the only way to ensure that the law is effective to all offenders regardless of their gender.