U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

Sexism and the Female Offender: An Organizational Analysis

NCJ Number
L Gelsthorpe
Date Published
206 pages
Female offenders have always been viewed differently than male offenders as less delinquent, dangerous, and involved in criminal subcultures and have less frequently provided a focus for criminological theory.
Explanations for the different level of interest in male and female offenders have rested on the comparative rarity of female offenders. Because there are fewer female than male offenders in the criminal justice system, there has been a tendency to view female criminality in terms of individual characteristics and only peripherally in terms of social forces and influences. The current research effort involved interviews with and observations of staff in three agencies to find out what practitioners think about their female clients and how complicated the issue of sexism becomes in an administrative context. The three agencies were an observation and assessment center, a police juvenile bureau, and a regional assessment and remand center. Numerous organizational influences contributed to the development of specific images of female offenders. The author concludes that students of females and crime have inherited a legacy of female offender images which have not been theoretically or conceptually explained. Further, there are flaws in feminists' castigation of criminal theories and criminal justice system practices as sexist. Images of female offenders are mediated by many factors which cannot be linked directly to sexist ideology. Supplemental notes on the author's research are provided in appendixes. References, 4 tables, 1 figure.