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Monday 25 September 2017
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Inappropriate Imprisonment? Reforming Women's Penal Policy from a Gender-specific Perspective

Rebecca Brackett

Abstract

The analysis reports the findings of an investigation into the impact of gender construction within female imprisonment and penal reform, using a qualitative research strategy of secondary data analysis.  In accordance with the feminist critique surrounding the gendered nature of the criminal justice system, the research investigates the rise in female imprisonment through an examination of the gendered construction of the female offender, and gender-bias within the sentencing process.  Primarily, as a result of the remaining presence of patriarchal ideals, the analysis found the misrepresentation of female offenders continues to dominate the public and political sphere. The analysis found gender-related factors mediate the sentencing of women, which alongside the shift in penal philosophy, contributes to an increased use of short-custodial sentences.  The investigation presents the high prevalence of mental health and harmful behaviours within the female estate as a failure to accommodate for gender-specifics and promotes community sentencing as an alternative.  Nevertheless, the research identifies the difficulties surrounding the penal reform as a failure to recognise substantive equality. The paper concludes by suggesting the disproportionate treatment of female offenders is a result of a deeply embedded cross-section of assumptions; including gender, sex, race and class.

 

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