Most of the information available on crime and criminal issues has focused so much on men and this has led to the development of a common notion that men are violent, aggressive and more versatile to criminology than women In addition most of the criminologists and researchers are men and therefore they tend to focus most of their efforts towards studying what affects male offenders.
In most cases women are viewed as vulnerable and “soft”, they are seen as people who are not fully equipped for violence and therefore end up as accomplices. The society should note that as it keeps on pointing women as the gentler sex, sometimes the women could be as cold-blooded just as the men. Little has been done in studying the women psychopathy and therefore this paper will critically analyze the social issues related to female crime before conviction, while in prison and after imprisonment.
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Currently women involvement in crime is increasing at an alarming rate compared to the pace of their male counterparts in the world. This increase has been associated with the increase in the number of women involved in alcohol abuse, drug abuse and also the complex structures of rehabilitative and treatment needs among women. There are other underlying social factors such as unemployment, poverty or past victimization of domestic violence.
It is important to note that the reasons why women get involved in criminal activities vary from one offender to another. Some women act out in order to defy an image. In this scenario some women know that people think about them in certain way but go ahead to do things outrageously in order to prove that they are not what the society thought they were.
There are other women who get involved in crime as result of past abuse or trauma. Women who in the past have gone through family violence are at a higher risk for substance abuse, mental health problems and in most cases they indulge themselves in criminal or delinquent behavior. It should be noted that although men who commit crimes also have past cases of violence, the rates among the women are higher .Research indicates that children born of incarcerated parents are five times more likely to commit crimes than children from families where the parents have never been incarcerated. This is due to the fact that children from incarcerated mothers often suffer from psychological and emotional problems as a result of the trauma due to separation from their mother and also being witnesses of criminal behavior and substance abuse in their homes. Therefore such children grow up to be criminals just like their parents.
A number of women often find themselves behind the bars as result of depression and mental illness; women have higher rates of depression and anxiety disorders compared to men. Research shows that depressed people are at a high risk of doing a self-medication with alcohol or drugs and women in particular are more likely to use such substances in an effort to get away with the emotional pain
According to the Agnew general strain theory of crime the individuals who experience negative emotions or affect are more likely to engage in delinquency or crime.The theory focuses its approach on the negative relationship and how this relationship can push women into criminal adaptations. This theory states that when women are faced by stress, delinquency and crime serve as the only alternatives in coping with the situation. There are other women who act in certain ways because of being snapped. This is a controversial diagnosis but in ordinary language it means that an individual get pushed by occurrence of events up to the point of breaking rules. Some women are forced by situations to commit crimes since in the time of the crime there was no alternative.
Another social issue that has encouraged women to join the crime scene is the act of following their role model. In most cases this happens among the gangs, when girls see a person they respect committing a crime they also tend to do the same.
There are those who get involved in crime as result of keeping their partners attention or affection. When women team up with men, they also get involved in their criminal activities and end up committing crimes that they would not have committed if they had different partners. Such women tend to do everything in the name of love. Some women get involved with men in prison and they tend to have a belief that their love can rescue the man's crime. In some cases the offenders concerned exploit such notion and therefore instead of being affected in a positive way by their newly found partners they impose a strong negative impact on the woman For example Bianchi Kenneth pleaded guilty of murder of college students in Bellingham, Washington, and to five of the 10 murders in Los Angeles in 1977 and 1978 which had been attributed to the “hillside strangler” .He attempted but failed at malingering, a multiple personality disorder, then agreed to make a testimony against his cousin ,Angelo Buono. Later in 1980, veronica Lynn Compton, an actress and playwright contacted Bianchi from the prison and informed him that she identified with him, so together they came up with a plot that would save him, and she would go around the country performing series of murder in order to show the authority that they had convicted the wrong person. Later veronica was found guilty of attempted murder and was convicted too.
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There are other women who just like being the outlaw. This kind of women commit crime in order to feel good, they develop a personal feeling that they perceive as relaxing, cool or satisfying from working outside the social boundaries.A study done by Kalunta showed one woman offender who had grown up with all privileges in life but by the age of 24 she had pulled over 500 burglaries and had employed three men to work for her. Such people do exist in the society and feel gratified by going against the society requirements.
Other women turn into crime as a result of substance abuse. There is a direct relationship between illegal drugs and criminal behavior. This relationship is convincing at first glance although it is not easy to come up with a conclusion regarding the exact cause-and-effect link that lies between this two phenomena. Over the past two decades scientific studies conducted show that use of drugs is a risk factor associated with crime. For example a big number of the women who have developed a very strong addiction to the expensive drugs such as cocaine and heroin and are unable to afford the habit are more likely to commit crimes in order to buy the drugs. World statistics show that drug related crimes, production and trafficking of illegal drugs are published everywhere in the world. In 1998 bhang was the substance that was most commonly mentioned in drug-related arrests among the member states of the European Union.
Poverty is another social issue associated with crime among women. Criminal justice scholars and sociologists in the past years have found that there is a direct relationship between poverty and crime. One of the crime economic theories assumes that individuals weigh the consequences of indulging in criminal activities. They therefore resort to crime only when the consequences are outweighed by the likely benefits from the crime. A logical conclusion could be that persons living in poverty are most likely to commit property crimes like larceny, burglary or theft. This is extremely common among the divorced and single mothers who cannot afford the basic needs for their family. In a few cases such women tend to turn to prostitution and crime in order to gain money. Crime is perceived a big problem in the US in areas that have high levels of poverty. The effects of poverty on crime level can be explained through a number of ways, poverty leads to stress that in turn leads people to commit violent acts, robbery or even theft. In addition poverty may lead to individuals having an access to an inferior education which can cause the youth to have little trust with education system and consequently have a minimum access to good role models and jobs. Other factors which affect the rate of crime are also correlated with poverty as well. Higher levels of unemployment would certainly increase the poverty level and at the same time lead to increased crime as a result of depression associated with being unemployed.
Once women have been charged in court and taken to prison they face a number of social challenges, this is because they represent a small minority of the population in prison. In addition women tend to be overlooked by the government policy makers, penal institutions and the international community at large. In most cases their rights are frequently violated by the prison regimes which have been designed predominantly to cater for the male prisoners. Therefore imprisonment has a different impact on women compared to men. Women hence face the challenges of improper healthcare, lack of necessary education programs, accommodation problems and problem of serious effect of their imprisonment to their children. They also lack proper representation of both foreign and indigenous women.
Most of the women who commit crimes are mothers, when there are imprisoned; this does not only affect their own rights but also the rights of their children.In some cases when a woman is imprisoned she has to be separated with her children, a situation that can put the child at a very big risk of developing bad behavior.
While in prison women tend to be discriminated in a number of ways. Because there are few women prisons, this cause a scenario whereby they are imprisoned far away from their homes and families compared to their male counterparts. This makes it even harder for them to maintain close family conduct. In most cases the female juveniles lack adequate facilities to accommodate them and therefore the juvenile prisoners often find themselves imprisoned together with adult women.
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The issue of strip searching has brought about a lot of challenges among women prisoners at large. This has made women to become more venerable to cases of sexual assault compared to the general society and male prisoners. A research that was conducted among Australian women prisoners showed that 89% of the prisoners had been abused sexually at some point in their lives. It should be noted that strip searching in most instances is traumatic to the female prisoners.
It is more traumatic for women who are pregnant whilst in prison. This is because such women require special nutritional and health attention, something this in most instances goes unattended. Often women prisoners are carried around during child birth and strictly guarded by male guards, when this is done it should be considered as a violation their rights. The rights of both the babies and their mothers should be considered especially during pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding period and post-natal care while in prison.
According to findings released in 1998 by the national center on addiction and substance abuse, when women are convicted in court of law found guilty of committing offences such as abuse of drugs and taken to prison, relatively a very small percentage of such women receive any treatment while within the justice system. They also suffer from lack of proper individual assessment and treatment to mental illnesses. Women offenders in most instances have specific health needs associated with their risky sexual behavior and drug-abuse before being imprisoned and this needs are not properly taken care of in prison. In addition the prison provides a bigger risk of being affected with infectious diseases, including tuberculosis, sexuality transmitted diseases, HIV and hepatitis B and C infection.
Life after imprisonment is not easy for women since they always have to work hard in overcoming huddles related to their previous life as offenders. Therefore women ex-offenders require special assistance in order to re-unit effectively with the society. The general society is required to view the ex-offenders as people who are able to make it in life but not to look down upon them.The successful re-entry of the ex-offenders to our society is very important towards reducing recidivism, building healthier neighborhoods and saving the taxpayers money.
Since many women released from jail usually, have lost conduct with their families and friends and hence face greater challenges of “starting from scratch”. Helping them to construct new relationships becomes a good source of healing, support and connection. Research has shown that the rate of mental illnesses is higher among women as compared to men.
Majority of women ex-offenders are single, unemployed, have young children and posses less education than what is needed to compete in the current economy. All this factors place them at a disadvantage while competing with other women and men for employment opportunities. If they also suffer from a mental disorder things become so hard and therefore efforts should be made to provide adequate educational and vocational services while still in prison.
Some women ex-prisoners often suffer from low self esteem and lack of self acceptance and hence require long counseling periods and therapy in order to fit in the general society. Some of them think that they do not deserve to have equal opportunities in the society. They feel that they do not have sufficient ability for self recognition and power to start all over again with life. There is also another group of women that has to deal post-traumatic stress disorder. These are women who may have been part of the victims of violence or other traumas while still in prison or serving their sentences. They tend to defend themselves either actively or in a passive way towards any chaotic personalities in their presence. The post traumatic disorder is commonly characterized with flashbacks, traumatic memories, anxiety, depression and emotional numbing.