Youth crime - female offending


Female vs. Male trends

  • Official statistics - at least 1/5 of all those cautioned or convicted in any one year are aged between 10 and 17
  • well over 1/3 are aged under 21
  • self report studies - how many offences committed (if any) - confirm offending during teenage years is common
  • home office research mid 1990s - over half of males and almost 1/3 of females aged between 14 and 25 admitted to committing at least one criminal offence
  • estimates of peak age vary but generally between 15 and 18 - higher for males than female 

Graham and Bowling (1995) peak age for males  14 for property offences 

peak age for males

  • 14 for property offences 
  • 16 for violent offences 
  • 17 for serious offences
  • 20 for drug offending 

for females

  • 15 for property and serious offences
  • 16 for violent offences
  • 17 for drug offences
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Patterns and trends

  • Gottfredson and Hirschi (1990) - bulk of crime carried out by boys and men
  • generally, women tend to be much less involved in most sorts of offending - proportion of women with a conviction is lower at all ages than that for males
  • Roe and Ashe (2008) - over quarter of young males and under a sixth of young females aged between 10 and 25 reported having commited at least one offence in the past year
  • data identifies the 16-17 age group as that with the highest crime rate for males and the 14-15 age group for females
  • official statistics - peak age of known male offending increased - in 1971 14 years, 1980 15 years, by 1990, 18 where it has since remained 
  • Rutherford (1992) - significant proportion if young people will simply "grow out of crime" - surveys show that after the age of 16 most offence decline in frequency, though fraud and buying stolen goods among females tend to become more common (Flood-Page et al, 2000)
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Criminology and neglect of gender

In the view of feminist criminology - bulk of criminological theory - dominated by a concern with male offending - most criminological insight  based on male offending

"generalisability"  - much criminological theory was of little relevance to an understanding of female criminality

Heidensohn (1996) - partyly, simply reflects that criminology as a profession is more male dominated - female offenders are relatively more invisible - fewer female offenders therefore more difficult to study

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Home office 2015 facts

  • Approximately 13,500 women are sent to prison each year in the UK, 
  • Nearly a third of all women in prison in 2015 had no previous convictions; more than double the figure for men
  • There are 65 girls in custody and 51 children aged 10-14
  • One in four women in prison has spent time in local authority care as a child
  • Nearly 40% of women in prison left school before the age of 16 years, almost one in 10 were aged 13 or younger.
  • 30% of women were permanently excluded from school
  • Over half the women in prison report having suffered domestic violence and one in three has experienced sexual abuse.
  • It is estimated that four out of 10 young women in prison are mothers.
  •  51% of women leaving prison will be reconvicted within a year
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Reasons for female offending

  • Some argue that women become involved in crime due to instrumental reasons - to provide for children or family in circumstances where there are limited legitimate opportunities - feminisation of poverty thesis (Walklate, 2004)

Caddle and Crisp (1997) - survey of 1000 mothers in prison - examined the most common reasons for offending

  • having no money 54%
  • mixing with the wrong crowd 46%
  • need to support children 38%
  • drinking or drugs 35%
  • family problems 33%
  • having no job 33%
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Lombroso and Ferrero - biological determinism

  • women especially influenced by their biology
  • far fewer "born female criminals" than male but more savage
  • women commit less crime due to being less highly developed than males
  • most common form of regression for women was prostitution
  • born female criminal - manly features
  • whilst majority of females are lead into crime by someone else or irresistible temptation - there is a small sub group whose criminal tendencies are more intense than those of males

2 characteristics

  • 1) variety of crimes - many female born criminals specialise in more than just 1 type of crime 
  • 2) cruelty - simply killing is not satisfying - need to suffer and experience "full taste of death"
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All female forty elephants 1870

  • Majority of females are lead into crime by someone else or irresistible temptation
  • between the 1870s and the 1950s, was responsible for the biggest shoplifting racket the country has ever seen
  • first mentioned in newspapers in 1873 - existed since the late 1700s and ruled part of londons underworld for almost 200 years

GANGS centre for social justice 2014

What roles do girls play in gangs? 

  • young women who adopt male personas within gangs; ·
  • female family members of gang members; ·
  • wifeys/girlfriends: young women in a recognised relationship with gang-involved males;
  • baby-mothers: young women who have children with gang-involved males; ·
  • links: young women who are associated through ‘casual’ sex with one or more members of the gang
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Control theories (Heidensohn, 1996)

  • emphasis on conformity rather than deviance
  • important to understand the various ways in which women's lives are ordered and controlled
  • women's lives often subjected to high levels of informal social control 

females shapes at four levels 

1) the home - domestic violence, man breadwinner, nuclear family

2) in public - males associated with force and violence - very high levels of fear reported by women in relation to physical attack and sexual violence

3) work - male dominated, sexual harassment, coping with both home and work

4) social policies - traditionally been organised in ways which reinforce women's roles 

these help to understand women and their limited offending behaviour

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control theories - adler (1975)

  • believed that the arrival of the Second Wave of Feminism during the 1970s consequently coincided with a ‘dramatic’ upsurge in women’s criminal activity
  • claimed while women have demanded equal opportunity in the fields of legitimate endeavours, a similar number of determined women have forced their way into the world of major crime such as white collar crime, murder and robbery
  • women criminals today represent a ‘new breed’ - changing nature of female involvement in a wide variety of crimes.
  • For example, female white-collar crime has increased since the ‘liberation’ of women
  • suggests that as women are ‘climbing the corporate business ladder’, they are making use of their ‘vocational liberation’ to pursue careers in white-collar crime
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Chivlary thesis

  • chivalry perspective - girls and women not seen as deviant because male members of society protect them from the label
  • male police officer, judges etc - traditionally chivalrous attitude towards women
  • patriarchal explanations - male dominated social institutions i.e. family, are designed to prevent girls an women from engaging in deviance and crime
  • socialisation controls more girls than boys - teaching boys to be risk taker - teaching girls to avoid risk
  • double deviance - arises primarily as a result of women crime rates being low - therefore, those women who do offend have not only gone against social norms but also gender norms as a result - "double jeopardy" - punished twice - usual sanctions of criminal justice system aswell as harsher treatment due to breaking the law as a woman
  • Carlen - scottish courts - distincions made between "good" and "bad" mothers - sentence received based on which category they were preceived to fall into
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Pat Carlen (2004)

why do women's prisons take the forms they do? 

1) prisonisation - inmates take on a set of behaviour and values that reflect the culture of the institution. feminists - prisons usually organised to meet the needs of men 

2) discrimination - focusing on the ways in which female prisoners treated differently than male prisoners - not usually in beneficial ways - women's custodial institutions treated like men i.e. male dominated authority, harsh discipline, high security architecture

womens prison experience different from mens

  • usually located further from home due to lack of female prisons - average distance young girls were accommodated away from their home during 2004/05, similar in 2010/11 was 58 miles
  • suffer greater stigma - double deviancy

"carceral clawback" - undermines all attempts to introduce more lenient penal policies towards female offenders - continued investment in prison as a place that can offer something else other than punishment - helps to sustain its existence as the primary form of punishment 

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  • historically, little attention paid to ****, sexual assault, mens violence against females
  • critiqued the "stranger danger" mythology - women have been most at risk within the home
  • criminal justice system - failed to respond appropriately to womens victimisation - often result of male-dominated nature of the system
  • secondary victimisation - negative consequences of the criminal justice process for women complainants - often experienced as further victimisation
  • 2010 - 40% of women in custody have self harmed
  • 3/4 women using drugs
  • Women offenders are 36 times more likely to commit suicide within a year of being released

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**** trials

  • blame culture - women responsible for act e.g. clothing, alcohol intake, sexual partners
  • difficulty obtaining evidence, myths and stereotypes
  • estimated that 10 to 20 percent of ****s are brought to authorities' attention
  • according to government figures, 14,000 cases a year are reported
  • 19 out of 20 defendants walk free 
  • Around 78,000 victims are ***** each year, but just 1,070 rapists are convicted, each guilty of an average of 2.3 attacks
  • It also takes almost a year after a **** attack before charges are brought, on average, and almost two years – 702 days – for a conviction if an offender pleads not guilty
  • The Metropolitan Police Southwark Sapphire unit drew up its own policy to encourage victims to retract statements and boost the number of ****s classed as "no crime", improving the squad’s poor detection rates threefold
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Black cab ****** - john warboys

  • The Metropolitan police failed to investigate scores of **** allegations because officers did not record them as criminal offences.
  • In a breach of police policy, officers instead classed the incidents as crime related incidents, meaning the cases were not investigated properly,
  •  According to Scotland Yard's -  in the 12 months to December 2008, 2,366 ****s were recorded at the Met, compared with 1,897 in the year before - an increase of 469 recorded ****s
  • It is believed the bulk of this increase follows the error having been corrected 
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Female deaths in custody

  • In the year leading up to March 2013, six women died in custody. 
  • There were 94 self-inflicted deaths of women prisoners between 1990 and 2012
  • Approximately 30% of prisoners who take their own lives had no family contact prior to their deaths.
  • Many of the women had mental health problems
  • Women in custody are five times more likely to have a mental health concern than women in the general population.
  • Of all the women who are sent to prison, 46% say they have attempted suicide at some time in their life
  • 51% have severe and enduring mental illness
  • 47% have a major depressive disorder
  • Women prisoners are subject to higher rates of disciplinary proceedings than men. According to the Ministry of Justice, “women may be less able (due for example to mental health issues) to conform to prison rules."
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Characteristics of young girls in prison

Nacro (2009)

  • Social exclusion
  • Had been subject to sexual, physical abuse
  • Low self esteem
  • Drug and alcohol problems
  • Poor relationships with parents
  • Stress ridden and violent lives
  • Experienced family break downs
  • Excluded from school
  • Many had reported suicide and self harm
  • Mental health issues
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Young girls in custody

Home Office (2009) 

  • 40% suffered violence at home.
  • 33% report sexual abuse.
  • 71% have some form of psychiatric disorder
  •  89%  18yrs self-harm
  • 49% are drug dependent
  •  50% have literacy levels  11 years
  • 71% have been involved with, or in the care of, social services before entering custody.
  • More than half of women and many girls  leaving prison are re-convicted within a year
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Female prison population 2015

Prison reform trust 2015 

  • Offences – women tend to commit less crime and their offences generally less serious..
  • Ethnic minorities – 30% are from ethnic backgrounds..
  • Drugs – women tend to have a different type of drug use from men with higher levels of hard drug use.
  • Family – women are normally the primary carers for elderly relatives and children.  Around 55% of women in prison have a child under 16yrs. 33% a child under five and 20% are loan parents.
  • Distance from home – most women and girls prisons are geographically spaced out in the uk.
  • Mental health – 80% of women in prison have mental health issues
  • Experience of abuse – 50% of women in prison have reported abuse
  • Self injury – 30% self injury compared to 6% in male prison
  • Women and young girls enter prison for a  very short sentence compared to males.
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