Discussion: Should women be sentenced differently from men?

Should women be sentenced differently from men?

On the 16th October 2012 there was a Westminster Hall debate on sentencing female offenders. The debate was secured by Philip Davies Conservative MP, where he aimed to address 5 commonly held beliefs or “myths” about the sentencing of women:

  • women are very likely to be sent to prison and are more likely than men to be given a custodial sentence
  • most women are in prison for petty or non-violent offences, and are serving short sentences.
  • women are often remanded in custody but then are not sentenced to custody.
  • prison separates mothers from their children, which unfairly punishes them.
  • women are generally treated more harshly than men in the justice system.

There are two reports mentioned in the debate that appear to represent different statistics: the Ministry of Justice’s Statistics on Women and the Criminal Justice System & the Women Briefing by the Prison Reform Trust.

Let us be clear to distinguish two questions 1. ARE women sentenced differently (and detrimentally) to men? and 2. SHOULD women be sentenced differently?

We suggest debate be focused on the latter, however if anyone can shed light on the statistics that would be most welcome.

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4 thoughts on “Discussion: Should women be sentenced differently from men?

  1. Pingback: Join the debate | Saturday Forensic Forum

  2. Assuming that women are not unduly punished for their crimes, why should sentencing be any different from men? Surely the focus should be on interventions, whether social or psychological, before offending (often petty) occurs. My concern is that children are not used as a get out of jail free card.

  3. Jenny Earle from The Prison Reform Trust offered this insight for our online debate:

    “We do not argue that women should be treated ‘more favourably than men’, rather that equal treatment does not necessarily mean or require the same treatment. As the nature, causes and patterns of offending are different for women than for men, different responses may be required. Also, there is ample evidence that imprisonment is particularly hard on women, especially for mothers who are much more likely than men/fathers to be primary carers, women are less likely to have someone ‘looking out for them’ when they are in prison, as women often do for men when they are in prison.”

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