Are Females Treated More Leniently by the Law?

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.