Equality is always at the forefront of many discussions in society. Many
people are often looking at the equality of treatment of men and women.
Are men treated differently than women when it comes to the law? While
some people may argue this is true in family law cases involving child
custody or spousal support, how do women fare in the criminal justice system?
Certainly the natural favoring of mothers over fathers has changed over
the years, with greater equality being shared between both parents in
and out of the courtroom. But when it comes to criminal matters, are woman
actually receiving more lenient consequences for the same crimes that
cause men to spend large portions of their life behind bars?
Updated in 2016
Examining the Case of Jodi Arias & Women in Justice System
This very question was brought up in light of the recent Jodi Arias trial
regarding the 32-year-old woman who allegedly stabbed her "off-and-on
lover" to death in his apartment. Arias claims her actions were self-defense,
and it resulted in the multiple stabbing and shooting of the man, leaving
him bleeding out in his own bathroom.
Similarly, Amanda Knox faced retrial in an Italian court for the
murder of her British roommate while studying abroad. Both cases, as well as
the gruesome details, leading up events, and sex lives of the women, have
been heavily covered.
While Amanda Knox was eventually acquitted, Jodi Arias’ was given
life in prison instead of
capital punishment due to a hung jury. Even still, some believe that these two women were
treated much more leniently than male counterparts would have been.
Taking a Look at the Statistics
According to scholars, women often receive shorter sentences for
sex crimes. More than that, the federal courts are allegedly more lenient on female
defendants in general when it comes to criminal cases according to a
2014 study. Another
study in 2015 showed some serious differences in how men and women are treated from
the initial appearance to the final sentencing.
For example, the following were the key issues identified in the study:
- Females were 46% less likely to be held in jail prior to a trial.
- Women released on bond were given bond amounts set 54% lower.
- Females were 58% less likely to be sentenced to time in prison.
- Women are more likely to be released prior to trial.
However, researchers believe this unfair treatment is reserved for only
certain women. African American women received less favorable treatment,
being assigned higher bond amounts and more likely to be sent to prison
than caucasian women, though both were equally likely to be released prior
to their criminal trial. Further, this idea of unintended “chivalry”
in treatment seemed to be reserved for women who appeared to fit into
“traditional” gender roles, such as a housewife or mother
of docile nature.
Overall, there is no denying that women are treated differently by the
criminal justice system than men are. While there have been great strides
in progress for equality, not all areas are perfect—especially not
the criminal justice system.