Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Sentencing: Sex Offenders edition

Interesting study:

Female sex offenders receive lighter sentences for the same crimes than males says a study recently published in Feminist Criminology, a SAGE journal and the official journal of the Division on Women and Crime of the American Society of Criminology.

Embry and Lyons looked at the sentences that male and female sex offenders received for specific sex offenses and found that even after the implementation of sentencing guidelines to ensure equality in sentencing, on average male sentences were between 6% and 31% longer than female sentences for the same or similar crimes.

"It appears as if the criminal justice system actually treats women more leniently than men," wrote Randa Embry and Phillip M. Lyons, Jr., authors of the study. [...] "This leads to the supposition that women, regardless of the departure from social and gender norms committed in concurrence with the offense for which they are being sentenced, continue to be viewed as individuals who should be protected by the justice system," wrote the researchers. "Obviously, as a social institution, the criminal justice system is reluctant to break those social norms and gender roles in response to atypical gendered behavior."

As I skimmed through the Original, which is

Sex-Based Sentencing: Sentencing Discrepancies Between Male and Female Sex Offenders - Randa Embry and Phillip M. Lyons, Jr. - Feminist Criminology - 2012 7: 146

As previously stated, the prevailing number of studies that address gender differences in sentencing overwhelmingly find women receive more lenient sentences (Blackwell, Holleran, & Finn, 1998; Curry et al., 2004; Daly & Bordt, 1995; Daly & Tonry, 1997; Farnsworth & Teske, 1995; Jeffries et al., 2003; Koons-Witt, 2002; Spohn & Beichner, 2000). Although research has shown that gender does impact sentencing decisions, further exploration has found these differences can be mediated by extralegal factors such as having children and family responsibilities (Koons-Witt, 2002). Koons-Witt found that after accounting for personal characteristics of offenders based on gender roles, such as responsibility for child care (having children), the impact of gender on sentencing decisions of whether or not to incarcerate is diminished. These findings suggest that the chivalry hypothesis does not apply to all women but to those who most closely follow stereotypical gender roles as a parent. This then indirectly may provide support for the selective chivalry hypothesis by way of harsher sentences for those women who do not take on typical gender roles. In an effort to replicate the findings of Koons-Witt’s study in Minnesota, sentencing decisions were evaluated in Ohio to identify possible changes in sentence disparity after implementation of determinate sentencing structures (Griffin & Wooldredge, 2006). Unlike the findings of Koons-Witt, this study found reductions in sentencing disparities after the guidelines were implemented. More important, Griffin and Wooldredge found no support for the chivalry hypothesis and focal concerns model when it comes to extralegal factors such as having a dependent child. No significant differences were found for those women being sentenced who had children versus those who did not have children.[...]

Even after the implementation of determinate sentencing, it appears judges are more apt to consider extralegal factors for women when making sentencing decisions (Williams, 1999). By examining adult felony case files in Florida, Williams observed that judges were more likely to consider only legally relevant factors such as criminal history or offense and case-based factors for men, whereas extralegal determinations were taken into consideration to determine penalties of female offenders, allowing a downward departure from sentencing guidelines put in place in the state of Florida.[...]

However, it can be argued that the most compelling case for the selective chivalry hypothesis or evil woman theory stems from the examination of more specific behaviors as they apply to traditional gender roles. Unfortunately, those studies that examine sentencing differences between male and female offenders have typically found little to no support for the theory (Farnsworth & Teske, 1995; Mustard, 2001; Rodriguez et al., 2006; Steffensmeier, Kramer, & Streifel, 1993).


When all variables, sex, sentence length, and offense category, were considered, a significant difference was recognized in sentence length, and mean sentence length for men was longer, indicating a harsher penalty for the same or similar offense. Standardized scores for length of sentence with regard to sex offenses in general showed a mean of 8.42 for men as opposed to 7.92 for women. In addition, those specific offenses, which found a significant difference in sentence length, rape, child sexual assault, and forcible sodomy, showed a mean standardized sentence length of 9.38, 7.88, and 9.04 for men, as opposed to 8.83, 7.41, and most notably, 6.23, respectively (Table 2). In no instance were women sentenced to longer or more severe sentences with regard to any sex offense.

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