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Black Women Offenders and Criminal Justice - Some Theoretical Considerations (From Comparing Female and Male Offenders, P 89-105, 1981, Marguerite Q Warren, ed. - See NCJ-87720)

NCJ Number
D K Lewis
Date Published
17 pages
Various studies suggest that black females are more likely than white females to be involved in crime because of age and other demographic characteristics, economic deprivation, status equality between sexes, socialization patterns, racism, and sexism.
Data show that black women are and have long been disproportionately incarcerated relative to their numbers in the general population. Further, they display somewhat greater involvement in violent and other personal crimes than white women. An examination of the literature reveals a number of hypotheses purporting to explain these differences between black and white female criminality. First, studies have found the crime-prone age group (15-39) among black women to be proportionately larger than among white females, particularly in large urban cities. Other studies suggest a significant relationship between the low income, fewer job opportunities, and higher unemployment rates of black women and crime. Some theorists argue that men commit more crimes than women, in part, because they are the economic providers and family heads who are under greater pressure to succeed. Following this reasoning, it is logical to suppose that black women commit more crime compared to white women because they fulfill the masculine economic role in many of their families. Further, the gender role expectations among black females tend to be more like the masculine role, i.e., aggressive, independent, and competitive, which is hypothesized by some to be related to criminal behavior. Racism in criminal justice processing has also been considered a factor in the greater representation of black women in the criminal justice system. Although females are generally treated more leniently than males by the criminal justice system, the high proportion of black females incarcerated may be due to their perceived violation of feminine patterns of crime (black women tend to be convicted of violent crimes). The multiple theories of black female criminality require the development of an integrated model based upon empirical studies. Fifty-two references and 13 notes are listed.