Examining The Problems Women Have In Sloveinia Criminology Essay

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Both in theory and research, the criminality of women is a fairly overlooked area, crime being primarily a male sphere, with men committing on average around 96% of all criminal acts, and women only 4%. To understand the criminality of women, and in particular the criminality of women in Slovenia, the author focuses on the following theses: 1. For the understanding of the gendered aspect of criminality it is not so much important why the number of women involved in crime is so low, but rather why the number of men is so high. 2. The criminality and criminal acts committed by women in Slovenia are a reflection of the traditional image of the woman, which is manifest in the social division of gender roles, and also influences the extent and types of criminal acts. 3. For the understanding of criminality, it is necessary to research it from the point of view of gender, as only this kind of approach enables the examination of the overlooked point where criminality is reproduced.

Key words: women, crime, gender, prison, masculinity, power, femininity, masculinity

1. Introduction

A large part of criminological theory remains gender-blind to the problems of gender in crime. Authors who have tried to explain female criminality have been departing from the classic biological determinism of biological theory, which attempts to explain criminality through biological factors. Pollack in his famous work The Criminality of Women (1950) continues with a biological view of female criminality; however, he also claims that women do not commit less criminal acts but rather that they receive more lenient treatment in the legal and penal system. It was not until feminist oriented criminology, connected with the publication of the book Women, Crime and Criminology by Carol Smart in 1977, that biological theories and the stress put on gender in criminology started to be severely criticised. Socioeconomic and social interpretations of female criminality focus on the social factor of criminality, which is a significant shift from biological to socioeconomic explanations of female deviant behaviour.

Feminist criminology pointed out many overlooked aspects of violence against women, the social role of women, and the objective factors of female criminality (Kanduč 1998: 321-322).

Heidensohn concluded that the impact of modern feminism had affected the consciousness of women. She also notes an important transition in which women were more likely to "resist" than to "accept" their ascribed status and to be more ready to "voice" dissent than to maintain "silence" (Heidesohn 1994: 45). The search for "a new breed of the female criminal" continues in the 21st century, attempting to prove the equality of criminality of men and women. Studies concerning the so-called "ladette" (Jackson 2006:11) phenomenon and the increasing participation of girls in different gangs and in bullying are trying to confirm the increase of criminality among women. However, this sort of "search for equivalence" (Silvestri and Crowther-Dowey 2008: 32) leads to a search for equivalence in victimization. Worall justifiably warns: "If women are no longer victims of gender-specific oppressions, such as domestic violence, rape and sexual abuse, because men are also victims of these things, then there is no need for gender-specific ways of dealing with offenders" (2002: 49).

2. Gender and crime

In recent times, particularly the analysis of the relationship between gender and crime based on the work by Connell (2002) has presented a new aspect of constructing gender, opening new dimensions in understanding criminality (Jeffersson 1996, Messerschmidt 2005).

Interpreting female criminality in terms of the social differentiation of gender roles is one of the first and still a currently implemented method for analysing the phenomena of female criminality. Gender is a social construct encompassing different social expectations, stereotypes, socially prescribed behaviour patterns, social control etc., which has an impact on societal living as a whole, as well as on the occurrence of crime. To comprehend the criminality of women it is important to draw from the concepts of masculinity and femininity, which in our society are based on a patriarchal order and heterosexual relationships. However, this is not enough. Gender is affected by other social divisions as well: race, class, mental illness and so on.

"Gendered relations" are relational, occurring as the result of social interaction between men and women, rather than from the static categories of man and woman. Hegemonic masculinity is not so much about groups and interests but about a socially dominant ideal of manhood (Connell 2005). Jefferson (1996) shows this very well by indicating a relation between the hazardous behaviour of adolescents and violence as a form of hegemonic masculinity in some environments. In this way, doing gender can be understood as a mechanism for controlling and dealing with the situation. Messerschmidt (1993) calls attention to groups that are marginalized and excluded from the labour market, which resort to crime as a way and a method of "doing masculinity" and as an assertion of manliness. It is important to point out here that masculinity forms part of a hierarchical relationship in any gender regime. Connell's work shows how macrosocial institutions generally benefit man, resulting in the ideological legitimation of the global subordination of woman to men (Connell and Messerschmidt 2005: 832). Masculinity exists because there are elite types or powerful groups who provide moral and natural guidance and leadership to maintain the status quo, which is necessary for corporate, military and political elites (Silvestry and Crowther-Dowey 2008: 63). Messerschmidt (1993) has shown how masculinity is connected to power and the labour market in the context of class, race and ethnicity. Men who can not access economic and material resources commit crime as a method of doing masculinity. Critically, this is not a mechanical link, although the pursuit of hegemony does have a causal influence (Connell and Messerschmidt 2005: 834).

The suggestion that crime is a form of gendered social action that creates opportunities for the maintenance of privileged forms of masculinity is shared by Bryne and Treww (2005) in their research of the offender's perception of their own behaviour and orientation towards crime. They found that a positive orientation towards crime - that there is a greater willingness to offend - was more prevalent among their male rather than their female respondents.

The structural analysis of gender performed by Connell (2005) has shown how men in relation to women produce dominant forms of masculinity.

Despite men's overwhelming domination in offending, explanations for their crimes tend to focus on youth, race, religion or inhuman (animal/devil) characteristics rather than on the male gender. This is perhaps not surprising, as masculinism is the invisible bedrock for understanding our world: it is the place from which things are viewed, categorized and defined, but it is not the subject of its own gaze; it does not see itself whilst measuring all against its norm and expectations (Wykes and Welsh 2007).

The ways in which power is inscribed into the normal identity of a man shows that the male body sexes around power, sexual and physical, and is closely linked with the patriarchal, and where this male power becomes dangerous. Crime is thus an integral part of masculinity and power; because men have more power and are more crime-oriented, thus they construe crime and law and in this way power is reproduced. Male power over women and also in crime reproduces the traditional, the patriarchal and the heterosexual, and includes the criminalization of men who differ from this hegemonic view of masculinity. Crime thus represents an integral part of reproducing such masculinity (Heidesohn 1994, Chesney-Lind 2006,Silvestry and Crowther-Dowey 2008). Women can, of course, also be violent, but they are violent in a different way: their violence is expressed mostly towards their own bodies while men express their violence towards property, women and/or children, which tells us a lot about the gendered norms. It is interesting that feminism in the field of understanding crime has all too long remained focused on women as victims, perpetrators or prisoners, and not on the men, because their role has remained bifurcated and neglected in this regard. The concept of femininity in crime discourses works twice to oppress women. It maintains as normal the traditional passivity, and women who deviate from this norm are seen as violent and bad. Crime discourse is for women doubly punitive, i.e. punishing a woman for her crime, but also for not being a good enough woman. The efforts for more justice must therefore include both masculinity and femininity and should strive for the change of the social construction of gender. The introduction of gender aspects and the discursive analyses of the body, language and power per se can offer us new insights into the role and status of women in criminology.

The occurrence of female criminality is influenced by social power; it is known that women hold less power than men. In the field of employment, research shows that women with the same level of education hold lower paid positions; a higher percentage of women are unemployed, and women become unemployed more quickly. Despite the fact that the relationships between the sexes have changed in the last few decades, research shows that women are often the victims of violent acts and pay a double price for their emancipation, working both at home and outside of the home.

The school system appears to be gender-neutral, yet detailed analyses have proven that at school as well as kindergarten, girls are more focused in class while boys focus more on activities and are for this reason frequently punished for disturbing class. Boys are punished more often. In this way, a hidden curriculum is developed, where boys with their antisocial behaviour receive more attention. So the male culture of assertion and the culture of female passivity are apparent in the very structure of school (Boehnisch 2004). An analysis of various ways adolescents deal with problems has shown that boys are more outwardly oriented (aggression), and girls inwardly oriented (depression, eating disorders, self-harm). More conformist behaviour is expected of girls, they have less access to deviant forms of behaviour, which is reflect in different gender-specific methods of dealing with problems (Hurrelmann 2007). Criminal acts reflect the traditional role of women to an even larger extent. A woman is subjected to more supervision and control, and throughout the process of socialization has less access to deviant forms of behaviour, while at the same time being more severely punished for transgressions.

3. The scope and structure of female criminality in Slovenia

As elsewhere in the world, the criminality of women in Slovenia presents a far lesser problem than the criminality of men, and is for this reason also a far less researched field.

Criminological research has shown that women are punished more leniently, and that prison sentences are pronounced for them less often than for men . However, this sort of information, seen from the point of view of gender, produces a completely different image of the position of women in the criminal justice system. Feminist oriented research has proven that women are subjected to a gendered criminal justice system, characterized by gendered organizational logic and gendered agents of power (Heidensohn 1996). Feminist oriented criminologists are trying to present a more complex picture of women in the criminal justice system and call attention to the discrepancy between the rhetoric of leniency and the practices in reality, showing the woman as the recipient of chivalry, protected from the full rigours of punishment (Silvestri and Chrowter-Dowey 2008: 33).

As elsewhere in the world, Slovene statistics also show that women are punished more leniently, which according to Eaton points to the fact that women are subjected to an paternalistic form of individualized justice (Eaton 1986).

The scope and structure of criminality can be determined on the basis of information about the number of convictions for criminal acts in ordinary courts of law in a certain time period. This data does not reflect the exact state of the extent of criminality as it does not include rejected and acquittal cases, only final convictions. What follows are the findings based on the information of the Statistical Office of the Republic of Slovenia and refer to convicts of legal age.

Female criminal acts present 4% of all criminal acts. In 2007 39 prison sentences were pronounced (Annual Report 2008). In the last few years, the majority of criminal acts have occurred in the field of property law (51%), body and life-threatening crimes (14%), and economic delinquency (11%). The recent period has seen an increase in economic and property crime, which can be attributed to social changes enabling women to access more influential positions in society and provide new opportunities for committing criminal acts. Despite this, the emancipation of women could not decisively influence the phenomena of female criminality, as it has had the least social influence on those layers of society from which the vast majority of criminal offenders originates. In these social classes, the belief in the traditional role of women is still dominant. Far more socially acceptable for a woman are escapist patterns and defeatist adjustment, particularly of a self-destructive nature (especially mental disturbances and illnesses), rather than criminal or deviant activities, which points to the fact that the system of control and supervision of women, in spite of a generally declared equality and emancipation, is (still) highly effective (Kanduč 2001: 32).

The largest age group of female convicts is between the ages of 30 and 39. The level of education has risen in the past decade, with the majority of female convicts having completed secondary vocational school, followed by a completed or uncompleted elementary school education. Education is connected with the type of criminal activity performed, with the perpetrators of violent acts being mainly unemployed women with low levels of education, while the perpetrators of theft have usually completed secondary school (although they are generally unemployed), and the perpetrators of embezzlement ordinarily have a higher level of education (Nikolić-Ristanović 1991). Analyzing the penalty sanctions we can see that the court passes mostly conditional sentences (approx. 80%), followed by financial penalties (approx. 7%), and prison sentences (approx. 5%). Statistics show that women receive conditional sentences more often than men, although the percentage of conditional sentences has been increasing in recent years for both genders. A marked difference is seen particularly in terms of prison sentences, which are significantly higher for men (approx. 18% of all passed sentences), and much lower for women (approx. 5%). Based on the analysis of pronounced sentences for women we can see that the courts most often set a conditional sentence (approx. 80%), while imprisonment only represents around 5% of all sentences.

The sexism which occurs in sentencing is present in subtle mechanisms which consolidate and reproduce gender roles in the criminal justice system. In an article entitled "Categorization and Stereotyping and Their Meaning for Criminology", Šugman points to the occurrence of gender stereotypes in Slovenia as in the rest of the world. She shows that judges reserve different judgements in rape cases and sanction such acts in different ways. Particularly in relation to sexuality and the criminal offence of rape there exist "myths", stereotyping both the perpetrator and the victim (Šugman 2006: 25). Another example of gender stereotyping is the inconceivably high sanctioning for criminal offences that deviate from the judge's view of the stereotypical female roles (Šugman 2006). Research of the "Perception of Female Criminality through Sentencing", conducted by Slovene criminologists Petrovec and Plesničar (2009), also reveals inconsistencies in sentencing, likely connected with the stereotype of the subordinated woman. The authors focus on violence against women as a criminogenic factor, which can lead an individual from being a victim to committing a crime, and their research has revealed some interesting aspects of sentencing. Based on the analysis of 9 cases of women serving the last three years of their murder sentences, the author's detailed dissection shows a noteworthy difference in the individual sentences. In the case where the court ascertained expressed violence in the man and a solitary occurrence of violence in the woman, the final altercation resulted in a 7 year sentence. In another case where the victim did nothing to cause their own victimization and the act itself was "without cause", stemming solely from the perpetrator's impulsivity caused by the influence of alcohol, the sentence was 2 years 8 months (Petrovec and Plesničar 2009: 103). This kind of inconsistency in sentencing allows for several interpretations, but the author emphasizes the commentary of the sentences, in which the machismo and the sexist attitude of the judges becomes apparent, as if to say that the woman was used to the suffering, which is reminiscent of the patriarchal pattern of the wife's subservience to the husband (Petrovec and Plesničar 2009: 103). In this way research shows an important distinction in determining the sentence for committing the same act.

4. Penal proceedings for female convicts

In Slovenia, there is one central prison for women in Ig. The penal proceedings move along the penalization-rehabilitation continuum. Since its implementation in 1975, the institution has taken a socio-therapeutic direction. The socio-therapeutic model of serving a prison sentence is based on treating the convicts in a way that is not repressive, focusing on their personal reintegration and on their reintegration into their environment by establishing positive social networks in it (Annual Report 1999, 2000).

In terms of working with the convicts, the fundamental change brought on by the socio-therapeutic policy was replacing the classic authoritarian role of the staff with a democratic one. The leadership had to come to terms with losing some of its power over the convicts, although it has retained it formally. Joint decision making about privileges, the regime, employment and parole release has heralded a redistribution of power and at the same time called for certain changes from the staff. The positive consequences of this direction are primarily evident in the fact that the institution has become of an open nature for 90% of the convicts, with a marked improvement in the general well-being of the convicts and the staff; the number of conflict situations have been reduced, and in time, no more disciplinary penalties were enforced at the institution (Petrovec 2001).

The regime on the wards varies foremost according to the level of restricted freedom. In closed regimes the convicts have very limited freedom of movement and habitation; they are subjected to a high level of physical and personal security measures. Their chances of being granted prison leave are limited to a minimum. In semi-open and open wards the restrictions are significantly smaller. The educational service includes a pedagogue, a psychologist and a senior medical nurse; a psychiatrist, gynaecologist and doctor are present on a contractual basis. For pedagogical work a positive attitude (Krajnčan/Bajželj 2009) between the pedagogue and the sentenced woman is extremely important, one that is based on trust, empowerment and support.

In recent times, a rise in addiction to illegal drugs has become noticeable, leading the institution to implement a volunteer programme for treating addiction; it includes group and individual work, as well as cooperation with medical and other organizations involved with drug addiction. The question that arises from this is to what extent prison presents a suitable therapeutic environment for treating addiction, as well as whether the experts employed at the institution have the adequate professional qualifications to carry out different programmes for treating addiction and other psychosocial problems. Considering the fact that there has been an increase in various forms of addiction and eating disorders, it would do well to consider introducing new forms, personnel, premises and conceptual guidelines for this type of work with the convicts in future.

Educational group work takes place in two groups and is based on conversation, communication and a democratic method of leadership. The other method is individual work. On the basis of pedagogical diagnostics, an individual programme is set up for each convict, which also includes a life plan following their release. A large part also consists of dealing with various forms of addiction (alcohol, eating disorders, drug addiction). Other forms of working with the convicts are directed towards:

1. Interventions in crisis situations,

2. Motivation for education,

3. Relationships with family and children,

4. Preparation for life after the sentence is served.

Some of the convicts work in the institution itself (bookbinding, sewing, laundry), while others go to work outside of the institution. The right to education is not denied to the female inmates while they are serving their sentences, but it is more or less restricted for those convicts who for reasons of security, the risk of escape and other reasons do not fulfil the criteria for attending educational institutions outside the institution. In view of these facts, the law charges the institution with the duty to provide education and vocational training for the female convicts. The institution runs formal programmes of education such as: the completion of elementary school level education, education for the profession of seamstress, hairdresser, and cosmetic technician.

In principle, the law also guarantees the convicts equal rights to employment as to any other worker in the country. In the mornings, the convicts work in a bindery or a sewing room, and some go to work outside of the institution to where they have held previous employment. They receive payment for their work, which is statutorily defined. They have employment insurance and medical insurance in case of accident or invalidity. In the institution, the convicts have the opportunity to perform jobs that are typically female (cooking, ironing, sewing, laundry), which only reinforces traditional gender roles. A similar situation exists in Austria, Germany and Croatia, where the resocialization of female convicts is also restricted to traditional female roles.

Those convicts who are mothers are in a special position, derived from the right to private and family life. Likewise, the rights of the children of convicts are determined by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. Issues concerning women-as-mothers are connected to cultural and social expectations, and to the role of the mother in family life, especially when the children are of school age. Women-as-mothers find serving their sentence a particularly distressing experience, they feel guilt, self-accusation, which only escalates in the absence of the other parent and calls for specific solutions for the needs of the children (Annual Report 1999, 2002). In Slovenia the law stipulates that a mother can stay in prison with her child until it is two years old. Mother with child lives in a special house next to the prison, where all the medical help is available to her; the house is not guarded. After this period the mother is put on probation so she and the child can go home. However, statistical data shows that during the recent years there has been no such case of the sentencd mother.

Foreign research (Caddle and Crisp 1997) has shown that children of inmate mothers suffer from various behavioural difficulties, developmental problems and difficulties in developing social skills.

The models from other European countries might point towards more suitable solutions for mothers and children. A model from the Netherlands proposes the mother and child be allowed to live together for up to four years, paying particular attention to the child and mother daily spending part of their time outside of prison. In Germany, women are under house arrest and are able to be with their children on a permanent basis. Analysis and research, as well as the experiences of women-as-mothers and children, should reinforce the assertion of the rights of this extremely socially vulnerable group of women and children, by way of seeking out models of more humane environments for them. Contemporary criminology should pay more attention to comparative criminology by studying criminological problems that the prevalent currents of criminology neglect (Meško 2008: 37).

Based on the analysis of the educational and socioeconomic structure of the convicts, the scale of psychosocial problems and problems with addiction, it has become clear that prison is not a suitable environment for the resocialization and reintegration of women into society, but that it in many cases actually leads to severe consequences for the women and children. The introduction of the significance of gender into criminology will hopefully initiate discussion about more radically differentiated specialized help, therapy and counselling, which will be more integrated, women-centred, and based on collective provisions for women, in this way contributing more to reducing their social vulnerability and exclusion.

Several questions arise in connection with this. How can prison be an effective place for rehabilitation and reintegration into the community if criminal activity is in itself largely determined by the social structure and by gender? How do you prepare a female convict for social reintegration into society where she is an outsider and socially excluded, and while the process of rehabilitation focuses solely on the specific pathology of the individual, overlooking the conditions which play a large part in reducing crime? Offenders tend to be part of the socially excluded population. Mainstream discourses about changing offending behaviour emphasize individual culpability without looking at the social conditions which help reinforce it.

On the other hand, the criminal justice system often does not recognize that the structure of female convicts and criminal acts shows female perpetrators of criminal acts to be a vulnerable social group, and that the act itself is an expression of distress, powerlessness and is often an extreme measure taken following a prolonged experience of social exclusion, abuse, violence and powerlessness. Advocating gender neutrality and equivalence in offending in the name of equal justice could be called "vengeful equity" (Chesney and Lind 2006). Females typically enter treatment with more problematic psychosocial and drug, psysical, and sexual abuse histories than do their male counterparts, but they often demonstrate equivalent or better treatment outcomes than do males which is "gender paradox" (Czuchry/Sia/Dansereau 2006: 58).

5. And after prison, what next?

The law determines a set of institutions assigned to provide coordinated assistance to the convicts so that their transition into work and life after their release is made as easy as possible. The institution works with a private company implementing various programmes for the less employable, which the convicts can join three months prior to their release. The programme is aimed at acquiring new social and various other skills and knowledge competitive on the labour force market, and in providing concrete forms of assistance for job hunting. It is a fact that approximately half of the convicts after their release from the institution do not have employment waiting for them, which naturally does not have a positive effect on their social reintegration. In a period of great unemployment, this problem will be even more pressing for marginalized social groups, and it is necessary to seek out new forms of employment for these people, lest they remain socially and economically excluded from society. In view of the social position of women, which in general means they possess less social power, it is especially vital to point out that disadvantaged female groups require special centres of assistance, rehabilitation and support, adapted to their needs and offering help in (re)entering family life, the labour market and society in general.

The preparations for the release of a woman represent an important part of the penal treatment: the sooner the preparations for life after incarceration are made, the better the chances of an individual's successful social reintegration. The institution and the convict formulate a concrete plan, which they send to a social work centre. A social worker, together with the convict, plans for different forms of support.

Significant for the termination of criminal activity are:

Employment - work represents the most important medium of social integration, closely connected to the individual's identity and feelings of self-worth.

Increasing the social capital represents an important aspect for discontinuing criminal activity, as is the formation of a cooperative relationship. Qualitative research has shown that assistance focuses primarily on financial aid, while other forms of support are often found wanting. Experts are helped by laics and volunteer workers, non-government organizations focus particularly on solving employment difficulties, but otherwise there are no nongovernmental organizations providing post-penal aid. Especially for women, prison comes with a special stigma, which is why we should in future consider different forms of assistance for women after their release, such as self-help groups, transition centres, counselling, etc.

5. Conclusions

Feminist oriented researches have warned that prison is more adapted to men and that women require treatment more suitable for women. Recommendations from the European Union have pointed out the need to take into account the woman as a mother, to offer parenting assistance, and organize for the prison sentence to be served as close to the place of residence as possible. Alternative forms of punishment legal in Slovenia are community service, fines (damage reparation) and mediation. These alternatives are aimed more towards making reparations to the community for the act committed, rather than on developing social and communicative abilities and skills, increasing the level of functional literacy, expanding social capital and increasing social inclusion.

A brief overview of the criminological literature that has emerged over recent years makes it fairly evident that the authors of some of the more interesting works have spent considerable time searching for new vocabularies, new terms (Silvestry and Crowter-Dowey 2008: 9).

By discussing the role of gender in crime, new opportunities are created for researching the relationship between men, masculinity and crime, as well as women, femininity and crime, which can lead to new insights and alterations to criminal justice policies in terms of ensuring more human rights are retained, and by reducing discrimination and prejudice in criminal justice policies.

It is the role of criminologists to highlight the problems of criminality in society, based on objective, valid and reliable research, so that they emerge as a critical expert public and strive for increasing the quality of social supervision practices (Meško 2008: 37). Researching the relationship between women, femininity and crime, as well as men, masculinity and crime, is certainly acquiring more and more relevance and political significance in criminological research, policy planning and in seeking innovative solutions to the challenges of contemporary life.