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The implementation of the programs relating to the criminal justice system remains an ever daunting task to the relevant government departments and authorities. There are several issues that have made this task even more challenging, and they are remarkably different from each other. It is conspicuous that these challenges relate to human biases. On the face of it, bias is gender neutral. However, it turns out that the female gender, owing to their intrinsic biological and physiological differences from their male colleagues tend to be much more exposed to the biases (Walters 1996). Consequently, the institutional biases within the criminal justice system are predisposed against the female gender.
As alluded above, one of the biggest challenges that every government faces all over the world is the implementation of the enforcement of the criminal process programmes. Such a programme collectively has an identity as the criminal justice system. The question that is then needed to be asked is, “what exactly does a criminal justice system entail?” Though, different definitions are bound, for the purposes of this discussion, there will be adoption of one particular working definition. This is the definition that will be in use as a guiding yardstick in giving meaning to this discussion (Garner 2004).
A criminal justice system may be taken and understood as, a given set of social and legal means used in the enforcement of the criminal law in a defined set of rules of procedure and limitations (Bullon 2003). The legal and institutional framework of the criminal justice system may be taken to include such institutions as; the court system, the prisons and other correctional facilities. In fact, it must be understood that a criminal justice system kicks into motion the precise moment when a person, either through an act of a commission or commission, engages into an act that causes the intervention of a country’s law enforcement agencies such as the police. Therefore, on this basis, it is worth to encompass all the various institutional systems starting with police arrest, arraignment in court, the trial process, conviction, sentencing, servicing of the jail sentence up to the point of release from the jail.
Given the multiplicity of the institutions that an organization involved in any country’s criminal justice system, therefore, it becomes necessary that in order to guarantee its smooth operations, there should be a harmonized mode for coordinating the oftenly disparate operations (Arbetman and O’Brien 1994). Thus, it is worth noting that all of the responsible government agencies are autonomous. Consequently, their administrative and policy implementation strategies are very independent, especially when dealing with each of their colleague counterparts within the criminal justice system.
Like most other social and legal institutions, the criminal justice system is burdened with certain kinds of biases (Baldus and Woodworth 2004). Of the said biases, one of the most conspicuous forms is that of gender bias. Gender bias may be understood as an unfair way, through which attitudes, choices and even certain decisions are under influence to be in favour of, or against, one gender. A corollary is that gender bias within the criminal justice system, involves the institutionalized sets of unfair ways through which the female gender does not receive unfair treatment by the structure found within the criminal justice system. Therefore, against this basis, this discussion considers the reasons that have been responsible for the institutionalized and unfair gender based biases in the criminal justice system.
In order for this paper to achieve its stated objective, it is to be structured into various interrelated sections. The initial section, illustrated above, aims to introduce the paper. This is to be followed by the next part, which inquires into and then considers the different causes of the gender bias within the criminal justice system. Once this is in place, the paper will give its conclusion to the discussion.
Causes of Gender Biases in the Criminal Justice System
a) Women Have Fewer Employment Opportunities within the system
The identification is that there is a fewer number of women who serve within the institutions tasked with discharging the criminal justice programmes. The Final Report of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court Committee on Racial and Gender Bias in the Justice System report, asserts that there are, for instance, few women who serve within the State Courts in Pennsylvania. The low levels of women gender who serve within the criminal justice institutions are not just confined to the court systems.
Indeed, the report suggests that the disparity between the male and female gender is a phenomenon that is not confined to the courts alone. In fact, the scenario is even greatly perpetuated within other institutions such as the police force. It means that the criminal justice system remains largely manned by persons of the male gender. As a consequence of this, the system becomes largely insensitive to the women’s needs and interests.
The result of this scenario is that most of the decisions taken and made would be blind to women but largely in favour of the male gender. Consequently, this contributes in making the criminal justice system biased against the women while putting weight in favour of male gender (Gaarder and Belknap 2004). As a result of the skewed employment policies within the criminal justice institutions, it can, therefore, be seen that the decisions of the criminal justice institutions somewhat, end up being biased against women who hold a lesser stake within such institutions as compared to their male counterparts
Although these authors seem to agree that policies on employment have a stake in the problem of gender bias within the criminal justice system, some authors seem to disagree, albeit tacitly. For instance, some have put forward the counter argument that the number of employees may not be responsible for the conspicuous biases witnessed within the criminal justice system (Herz 1998). The author’s argument seems to be to the effect that policy issues are more often not neutral. As a result, it may not necessarily follow that a male dominated system must produce policies that are gender biased.
b) Societal Prejudices
Another factor identified as being responsible for gender biasness in the criminal justice system is, the entrenched gender biases that prevails within most societies. While considering the figures relating to juvenile offenders, it points out that over the recent past years, the number of girls arrested has been increasing tremendously as compared to that of boys. The interesting bit about this determination is the fact that the increment does not insinuate that the crimes, which the girls are arrested for, are on the upward trend (Kruttschnitt 1981).
The author argues that the reasons for this increment are multifaceted. One of the reasons include the fact that the criminal justice system has in the recent past, developed a closer interest on the emergence of the female criminal. Consequently, the system has been able to detect an abundance in female criminality. This has led to a situation in which the number of arrests has continued to increase. This increment is not necessarily attributed to correspondence. In spite of this, what becomes of great concern to this discussion, with regard to gender bias in the criminal system, is slightly outside the above arguments. Authorities have pointed out that the criminal justice system remains greatly loaded with what is described as, “sexual double standards” within their practice. The matter of sexual double standards within the realms of criminality and criminology involve situations in which there is a possibility that female offenders would be held in custody for offences they committed, twice as much as compared to offences, which the males are not likely to commit (MacDonald and Chesney-Lind 2001). Indeed, it goes ahead to assert that even in the event that the males are in custody, the females spend five times longer in custody than their male counterparts.
The problem of gender bias found in the criminal justice system, especially among the juvenile offenders, has gotten the attention of the authorities. So serious was the problem that at some point, the authorities had to make amendments in the year 1992 to the “1974 Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act” (Teilmann and Landry 1981). The amendment was aimed at providing incentives related to the funding of the states, which put into place mechanisms that prohibited gender biases within the criminal justice systems.
In order to fully realize the objectives of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act, the act sought to put into place the relevant mechanisms that were to help improve the states’ juvenile justice systems. The bottom line for the mechanisms was the understanding that the minors were not to make any contact with adult offenders during their custodial days (Walters 1996). Informed by this understanding, the states were only to receive funding from the Federal government when they proved that they could uphold the standards.
In his article, Staples (1984) states that the inability of the act to protect the vulnerable females effectively has been as a result of very deep-seated societal prejudices. It is worth noting that the female offenders received harsh sentences than their male counterparts. It is argued that males and females are to conform to very different standards that are based on sexuality and morality. The acknowledged perception regarding a woman’s life is that she should be polite, proper and respectable. Contrary to this, women have oftenly ended up getting harsh penal sentences as compared to their male counterparts. Whereas this has been happening to females, male offenders have tended to escape with very light sentences because they are viewed as being non-conformists.
Despite the efforts of the authorities through the Act, some authorities have pointed out that these efforts have largely come to zero. There is an argument by researchers that the Act has failed to protect the more vulnerable female offenders, who remain in a situation that is not far from what it was before the enactment of the statute in question (Lederman and Eileen 2000). According to these authors, female offenders are considered to be worthy of protection from the harsh and biased law. In fact, the enactment of this legislation has largely been counterproductive as females continue to receive very harsh penal sanctions under the criminal justice system, especially at the juvenile level.
Founded on the above arguments, this discussion has considered the reasons that inform on institutional biases related to the criminal justice system. In the discussion, the various reasons responsible for the state of affairs in the justice system have been identified. Among the issues identified include; the existence of few women employees within the criminal justice system. Furthermore, the institutional biases in identification develop from social prejudices that have been, all along, tagged on both genders.
On the other hand, the discussion has gone ahead to identify authorities that do challenge the above elucidated reasons. The authorities offering the counter arguments, for instance, are contended that employment policies remain largely neutral and may not have any direct gender biases within the criminal justice system (Teilmann and Landry 1981). To this end, the consideration of viable techniques and solutions to curb this menace is very essential. The shortcomings of the system should be taken care of in order to correct the gender biases anomaly.
Based on the gender biases highlighted within the criminal justice systems and institutions, the government authorities must come up with proper legislations that would assist to address the challenges associated with this system. For instance, the impact of the 1974 Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act remains a very suitable building block that needs to be consolidated for a more improved system. Apart from that, there should be political will and support to assist in taking care of this anomaly.
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