Female Violent Offenders Notes.docx

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1 Apr 2012
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Female Violent Offenders
National Commission on the causes and prevention of violence charged Daniel Ward with the
task of shedding light on women’s involvement in crimes of violence
Central question they addressed in 1969:
Are women* more aggressive in committing violent crimes today than in the past and do any observed
changes in their criminality emanate from changes in gender role requirements?
*increases in females offending linked to changing gender roles in the 20th century
o Adler argued that just as women were taking advantage of new found opportunities in the labour
market, so also were they expanding their roles in illegal activities.
o Says it’s a wave that has not yet crested and is seeking a level in conformity with male violence
rates
Late 1980’s & early 1990’s
o Crack Markets
Upsurge in crime was linked to the crack markets
Women were targeted as both users and small scale dealers
Problem of parental drug exposure caught media attention
Women who were drug users were targeted by legislators in California
o Gomez and Logan point out however that women of colour particularly were
targeted in this campaign which thereby racialised and linked the images of
the unfit mother and female offenders
o Crack thought to make women slutty and destroy maternal instincts, chasing
drugs instead of providing for their children (threatening old fashion definition
of family roles)
o Gangs
Females targeted/characterized as being part of the increase gangs calling them
‘gangster girls’ who were labelled as wild* and cold blooded
o * Vigil argued that Latina gang members were more apt “to take on the
persona of a crazy person’ than their male counter parts
Critical scholarly analysis of women and crime point out that the shifting of
social/gender boundaries is causing a social concern about females offending
o Their argument: women’s criminality may be the product of a perceived
collapse of informal norms of restraint and a sense of decline in morality and
discipline within the family
Flaw in these studies they rely on large aggregated data & don’t focus on change in last 3rd of the 20th century
Ward’s Study
o Using data from Ward’s study & data gathered in 1998, new focus is primarily on women sent to
prison for violent offences, while acknowledging that these women are NOT representative of
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ALL females who engage in these activities; HOWEVER, they DO represent the most serious
offenders and those which generate most social concerns
Using data form 2 prisons = broader basis for assessing issues of stability and change
and women’s participation in violent crimes
o Data & Methods (1960’s data)
Ward & colleagues obtained data from prison files at different points during the
decade
because there were few significant differences in the characteristics of women in
prison in 63 & 78 the new method combined the group into the 60’s group
o Data (1990’s)
Draw on 2 types of data:
1. Women
2. Prison
Recent research on women’s involvement in crimes (data did not come from prison
files)
Compared respondents to the total population of the two prisons
o Found that in terms of offenses race & age were quite similar
o Survey respondents slightly over-represented women convicted of violent
offenses
o Total female population in jail in 1998 represented 14% of the total of
women incarcerated in the whole US (14% of whole US inmates =
California)
New survey data does not contain all the information BUT Ward’s survey data did;
therefore, new data from authors of article cannot answer all the questions which they
did limited to a comparison of prison records from the 1960’s with inmate survey data
from the 90’s
They believe it won’t affect he examination because:
o Some info from 60’s was based on interviews & therefore its close enough to
survey data
o No reason to assume the responses to survey questions (with regards to age,
sex, first arrest or prior commitments) would be a really biased system
Did interviews with people selected at random based on whether they had been
admitted within the last 6 months or whether they had been serving 5 or more years on
their current sentence
Methods of Analysis
o Analysis of demographic & personal history characteristic of women offenders within 5 offences,
paralleled Ward’s analysis – categories = homicide, assault, robbery, property crime & drugs.
o Crimes of violence = murder, assault, robbery
o 1960’s data based only on CIW, whereas 1998 data = CIW + VSPW. This distinction is important in
viewing the change in offenders
Population of women convicted of CIW in 1998 = 30% which is comparable to the 26%
rate of those convicted in the 60’s
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