Last Updated 13 Jan 2021

Abuse and Female Criminality

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This paper examines the connection between female criminality and the occurrence of abuse.  Abused inmates were more possible to report substance abuse problems, interpersonal problems, emotional problems, and have a negative attitude towards life after prison. The findings propose the need for more study about the relationship between women's criminality and abuse, and the creating of programs for imprisoned women who have been abused.


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Nearly all of the available study on the criminality of women suggests that there is a connection between crime and environmental issues such as attitudes towards women or economic opportunity.

Nevertheless, many aspects of women's experiences are yet to be examined, particularly in relation to the fast increasing number of imprisoned women. This paper looks at the connection between women criminality and the experience of physical, emotional and sexual abuse.

Historical outlook of Women in detention centers and Prison Reform in the US  An assessment of the limited literature on the account of the incarceration of women discloses a complex set of political, social, and personal problems that are experienced by women in the US over the last two centuries.

During the nineteenth century, the grounds for incarcerating women and their experience once in prison were of anxiety to prison reformers. According to Freedman (1981) in Their Sisters' custodians, three conditions started to emerge in the 1820s that gave rise to the prison reform pressure group for women.

In the beginning, most northern states adopted the prison as a principal means of reducing and punishing criminal activity. Second, a small but important number of women became prisoners of these prisons, particularly after 1940. Finally, middle-class American women inspired both by benevolence and their growing mindfulness as a sex became active in reform pressure groups that brought them into contact with their detained sisters.

Freedman (1981) propose that the growing number of women in prison amid 1815 and 1860 can be connected to social change, particularly urbanization, and new agents of social power such as moral reformers and urban police.

Under these controls, "not serious crimes against property or persons, but unlawful personal behavior such as, vagrancy, idle and disorderly conduct, and drunkenness --brought the majority of law offenders of both sexes into the courts and detention centers (Freedman, 1981, p. 14). Still, Freedman states that the ethical codes for women were stricter, and therefore, women were more liable to be convicted of such crimes.

To add on, he points out that low job opportunities and lower pays for women brought about economic marginalization and added the need for women to resort to criminal acts such as prostitution, particularly during wars, when men were not capable to sustain their families.

 Prostitution was frequently the mainly readily available way for women to sustain themselves and their family. Once tried or even suspected of a crime, a woman became even more marginalized.

The sentence for the nineteenth century woman criminal was the brand "fallen woman," and both men and women rejected anyone suspected of being a "fallen woman." due to this stigma, the female detainee was largely neglected and frequently subjected to overcrowding, cruel treatment, and sexual abuse.

This approach towards women can be drawn to our European precursors. According to Feinman (1980), in ancient Rome, Greece and medieval Europe, the main function of a woman was to provide successors for her husband to maintain his name and property line. As a result, treacherous women could be executed because of being unfaithful; they threatened the legality of the heirs.

In the late 19th century, Lombroso (1900) came up with a theory of criminology which was based on Social Darwinism. Lombroso hypothesized that women, poorer classes and nonwhites, were less evolved than upper-class white men, and so, were more liable to commit criminal offences.

He further added that for women to commit crime and drift from the "usual" path of " piety, maternity, and weakness, her wickedness must have been vast . . . (Lombroso & Ferrero, 1900, p. 150). This theory assisted in speculating the "fallen woman" concept.

To efficiently help women inmates, women reformers had to liberate themselves from the long-held communal biases against "fallen women." They had to stair over the "sexual clarity" line and identify both the imprisoned and themselves women as being part of the same class: These untimely reformers centered on the different conditions women prisoners were subjected to and they were mainly responsible for the creation of separate prisons for women.

In the Progressive Era, which is at the beginning of the 20th century, women reformers turned their interest to the basis of female criminality. They discarded Social Darwinism and began to expand a sociological theory of female criminality that attacked the concept of a physiological criminal type, look at the relationship of mental aptitude and crime, and finally "argued for an economic explanation of women's crime.

The latest sociological theory identified environmental foundations of crime, including low-paying jobs, lack of education, and poverty. As a result, it became clear that prisons could not determine the social problems related with women's criminality. Reformers took numerous approaches toward solving the social challenges that were as a result of the incarceration of women and towards helping women once incarcerated.

On the one hand, succefull reformers who preferred the extra-institutional, defensive services over incarceration focused on reforming criminal justice practices before the stage of imprisonment.

On the other side, other reformers tried to advance the women's prisons via better categorization and education, and diversified training. Therefore, these growing environmental change theories led to preventive services, mainly aimed at keeping economically marginalized women from using illegal activities such as prostitution to resolve economic problems (Freedman, 1981).

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Abuse and Female Criminality. (2016, Jun 03). Retrieved from

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