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Gender Bias In The Criminal Justice System


When it comes to the federal justice system, there is no question about bias.  Sentencing is 63 percent longer for men than for women under similar circumstances. Additionally, women enjoy a likelihood of avoiding charges and incarceration altogether at twice the rate of their male counterparts. This results in roughly ten times more men than women behind bars in this country. Is that the fair and equal distribution of justice promised by this country?

Equal Justice 

Disparities of all kinds have plagued the criminal justice system from the beginning.  In 1984 the U.S. Sentencing Commission was formed with a goal to equalize policy statements and sentencing guidelines and to neutralize disparities with regards to socio-economic status, race, creed and national origin. Noticeably absent: gender disparities. This, despite serious gender-related issues:

  • Females are more likely to be released on bail than males to the tune of 26 percent;
  • A male bank robber will likely serve a sentence that is 6 months longer than a female convicted of the same crime;
  • Male drug offenders are twice as likely to be imprisoned as females under similar circumstances;
  • Males serve sentences that are generally up to 30 percent longer than females for the same offenses.

Why the Disparities Continue 

Why are men so much more likely to be imprisoned than women who commit similar crimes? Perhaps one reason is that there is simply no focus on the problem, or effort to address it.  Racial disparities are high on the radar and agencies are required to develop policies to address equity issues (as though Black and brown offenders don’t also qualify as men!), but gender issues remain ignored on multiple levels. Judicial paternalism is viewed as partly to blame, as male judges’ subconscious sense of chivalry urges them to offer greater protections to females before them (although, as an aside, black women experience less protection than do white women). Furthermore, the rationale is that children experience greater harm when separated from their mothers than when separated from their fathers. Stereotypes that allow for men to be separated from their families through work or war persist, making incarceration more tolerable to the palate. Moreover, female offenders are often viewed as victims themselves, whereas men are viewed as perpetrators.

A Simple Solution 

A reasonable conclusion that addresses all discrimination in the criminal justice system—from gender to race and socio-economics—is to use the reasoning that incarcerates fewer women across the entire system.  If society is protected despite refusing to lock up thousands of female criminals, the same could be true if fewer male prisoners were incarcerated.  Fewer and shorter sentences, combined with programs designed to assist with the problems suffered by so many in the system, such as addiction and mental health issues—would level the playing field, save billions of dollars, and provide people with the tools they need to become productive citizens.

Getting a Fair Shake 

At Lobo Law, our experienced Las Vegas criminal defense attorneys are committed to providing the best possible defense for our clients, regardless of gender, race, or economic situation.  Schedule a confidential consultation in our office today.

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