Women account for approximately 10 percent of the incarcerated population. The recent census shows that women outnumber men, and one would expect women to be at least half of incarcerated people. However, that is not the case, as women constitute a small percentage, raising questions on the disparity. The post seeks to explore the reasons behind low incarceration rates among women. The discussion is not based on scientific studies but on personal observations and opinions.
Women are less violent than men. One of the primary reasons people end up in jail is participating in violent activities. Violence towards others is a crime, and perpetrators are arrested and charged in court, resulting in a prison sentence. Women are naturally nonviolent and less likely to cause significant bodily harm and property damage, saving them from arrests and prison sentences.
Women do no commit many crimes. Most crimes, especially violent ones such as armed robbery, kidnapping, carjacking, and home invasion, are committed by men. These crimes carry severe punishment, including life imprisonment. It is common knowledge that committing crime leads to prison; hence more men are imprisoned. Women are rarely involved in crimes, and when they do, they commit minor offenses, persuading a judge to pass a less severe punishment such as community service or parole.
The third reason women make a small percentage of the incarcerated population is that they are less active in gangs or organized crime groups. Men view crime as a career and form groups to conduct large-scale illegal activities such as drug trafficking, sex trade, weapon trafficking, and international human trafficking. For example, gangs such as Bloods and Crips recruit young men into distributing drugs and executing contract killings. Gang members risk arrests and prison sentences. A police operation on a single gang can land hundreds of men into prison. Women avoid prisons and jails by keeping themselves away from gangs and organized crime groups.
In most cultures worldwide, men are the primary breadwinners. The pressure to provide puts men in dilemmas and situations where they are forced to engage in crime to earn a livelihood. For example, a man might start selling drugs after losing a job to ensure the family does not lack food and shelter. Continued involvement in illegal activities increases the likelihood of being arrested and sentenced to prison. Unlike men, women are not under pressure to provide when there is a man present, lowering the chances of being involved in unlawful activities.
The low female population in prisons is also attributed to society’s leniency toward women. A man and a woman can commit the same offense, but the consequences are different. For example, women’s assaults on men are rarely reported, and people even make fun when a woman beats a man. Male victims of gender-based violence are reluctant to report incidents because law enforcers are likely to ignore or fail to make any follow-ups. This allows women to get away with offenses that men cannot escape. A single slap by a man on a woman is enough for a man to be arrested and charged with felony assault. The same cannot be said when the victim is a man and the perpetrator is a woman.
The criminal justice is also lenient toward female offenders, explaining the low women percentage in adult prisons and jails. Many courts consider women less dangerous and would recommend rehabilitation rather than punishment on female offenders. The other attributes that motivate the criminal justice system to treat women “softly” include pregnancy, child-rearing responsibilities, and demonstration of remorse. The traits are unique to women and favor them in courts.
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