Traditionally, there has been little research on or interest in the impact of female crime in modern society. In addition, juvenile crime rates are on the rise, which combine for a void of research or information on female juvenile offenders. In general, crime rates for women offenders have risen since the 1990's. Increasing numbers of young women are also offending at higher rates.
In a 1996 U. S. Department of Justice Report, the number of arrests of young women had doubled between 1989 and 1993. Twenty percent of all juvenile arrests were committed by girls, an increase of 87 percent. However, according to The National Study of Delinquency Prevention in Schools, males are far more likely to admit to criminal involvement than are females. For example, 12 percent of males and 4 percent of females reported carrying a hidden weapon other than a pocketknife in the past year (Wilson, p.
150). There are several theories for this rise in crime proposed by modern feminists, including that the introduction of women into traditional male roles prompted women to commit increasingly dangerous and violent crimes. However, this paper will rely on Meda Chesney-Lind's theories from The Female Offender. First, Chesney-Lind points out that research on female offenders in general is lacking, and that victimization plays a key role in the offending of women.
'... Responses must address a world that has been unfair to women and especially those of color and poverty.' (The Female Offender). She also stresses that therapy and rehabilitation programming should be gender specific. Chesney-Lind believes that women are faced with special issues, including the prevalence of abuse that female offenders endure. The American Correctional Association found that A) 61. 2 percent of female inmates were physically abused B) 50 percent were physically abused 11 times or more C) 54.
3 were sexually abused, and D) 33 percent were sexually abused 11 times or more. This environment creates a group of young women that are running away from home and breaking curfew to escape the abuse in the home. Unfortunately, these young women are then punished by the juvenile justice system for escaping this harmful situation. Since 1985, status offenses of young women have risen by 18 percent and curfew by 83 percent (FBI, 1995). These same young women are often placed in treatment facilities, only to escape shortly before they are to be released, to avoid returning to the abuse. Women may also turn to gangs as a surrogate family, only to engage in ever increasing levels of dangerous crime.
This lifestyle often leads to substance abuse, and girls and boys use drugs for different reasons. Women are most likely to use drugs as an escape or self-medication. What are the problems facing the treatment of female juveniles? First, treatment have been develop and implemented using the same techniques for both men and women. This type of general approach does not take into consideration the different responses of men and women. Women may need more emotional support and therapy due to years of abuse, as opposed to the need for discipline and structure that men might need. Women may need time to form a bond with a male staff member that is not seen as an abuser or as a sexual target.
Sexuality is an important component of gender specific treatment programs. Young women must address pregnancy, STD's, birth control, and normal sexuality. It is vital to help these young women understand that they have the right to say no to sexual relations, yet it can be a healthy part of a loving relationship. Gender specific programs should address a variety of other issues, including anger management, substance abuse, vocational / life skills, and overall self esteem. Although Chesney-Lind theorizes that young women face unique hardships before entering the juvenile justice system, they still must be held accountable for their crimes.
The Restorative Justice Model is an example of treatment / responsibility that allows young women to make strides in their life. This model combines the offender, victim, and the community. This gives the offenders (both male and female) a chance to address the harm they have caused. Restitution, victim apology, and mediation are all examples of strategies used in restorative justice.
This allows for the verbal expression that is so important is gender specific treatment programs. However, most programs fail for young women because the importance of relationships is ignored. The same approaches cannot be used for both women and men. The need for a strong emotional bond is often overlooked in the pursuit of punishment..