Essay: Female crime (Page 2 of 2)

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There are a lot of criminal cases where females or couples have committed crimes because they have been convinced to do so by their partner. Many women also commit crimes alongside their partner because they want to be accepted by them, or they have such strong feelings for them they commit crimes with them as they are ‘blinded by love’. One particular case where this was apparent was the Moors murders which were carried out by Ian Brady and Myra Hindley. It became apparent after their arrest that Hindley’s involvement in the five murders was due to her love for Brady. She knew what she was doing was wrong but she went through with it because she didn’t want to say no to her lover (Gray, J, as cited in The Moors Murders: Young Couple Tortures & Kills 5 Kids, 2016). Similarly, when asked, the Governor from Cornton Vale prison expressed a huge concern in the fact that females are almost ‘charmed’ into committing crimes for their boyfriend or husband. (See Appendix 3). Therefore, it is ultimately clear that one reason why females commit crimes is because they are ‘blinded’ by the love they have for their partner and will do anything to please them. However, this can be criticised as there are a number of male murderers who were married and their spouses never committed a crime. Thus, to some extent, male influences can somewhat explain to reason why, in some cases, females commit crimes.

To conclude, there are numerous reasons why females commit crimes which differ in comparison to males. It can be established that theories developed by Cowie and Slater; as well as Parsons clearly show a link between biological and psychological factors and female crime. Along with the information gathered from the Prison Reform Trust, The Telegraph and the Governor from Cornton Vale Prison, mental health issues, monetary gain and influences from partners can also be behind the scenes factors which lead to females committing crimes. In most cases, females reasoning behind crimes are nothing similar to males as most of the time their circumstances are much different. This then leads to females having much different experiences and treatment when in prison, which will be discussed in depth in the next chapter.

Chapter Three: To find out how women are treated in the prison system in the UK and internationally

Prison is one of the worst punishments a person can go through. When females go to prison, there is one factor which differentiates them from males a vast majority of the time: they may have children. Last year, the Surveying Prisoner Crime Reduction study found six in 10 women in jail had dependent children, and a third of mothers are single parents before imprisonment (2015, as cited in Smith, L, Women in prison: It is equality to treat female offenders differently to males). If this is the case and they do have children to look after, what happens? What initiatives do prison services, in the UK and around the world, have in place to allow the mother to continue to be a part of her child(s) lives?

Firstly, one factor that must be considered is the growing number of babies born in prison and what initiatives are put in place in this scenario by UK and international prison services. In the UK, There has been a significant rise in the numbers of women in prison. But because so many sentences are short, the real figure is disguised and it is thought that up to 10,181 women were put behind bars last year alone. More than half of those women are mothers. (2012, as cited in Vallely, P,, Mothers and prison: babies behind bars). The Prison Service in the UK brought about Mother and Baby Units due to the fact that babies are born in prison, in the hopes that it will allow the mother to bond with the child and form a relationship with them whilst they are still incarcerated. These units are brightly decorated, are inviting and have highly trained staff. They are much different to the actual prison they are associated with. It is thought that when babies are first born, they need the mother there to nurture them for at least the first six months (2008, Children’s Commissioner,, Prison Mother and Baby Units Document). This is further backed up by an independent survey which found that 74% of those asked agree that mother and baby units are necessary for the child’s development (see Appendix 4, Q7). Thus, it is clear that mother and baby units are a good initiative put in place by the UK Prison service as it allows mother and baby to bond and form a relationship in a comfortable environment. However, many people do not agree with babies being born and spending the first weeks or months of their lives inside prison walls. David Cameron addressed this issue in 2016 expressing his views on mother and baby units. He thinks that it is disgraceful to think that so many babies are born inside prison walls and that more measures should be taken into consideration with pregnant criminals. He stated, “We’ve got to break this cycle. So I want us to find alternative ways of dealing with women prisoners with babies, including tagging, problem-solving courts and alternative resettlement units.”(2016,, PM Calls for rethink of treatment of pregnant women in prison). This is further backed up by an independent survey which showed that 61% of respondents felt that babies born in prison will impact them negatively later in life (See Appendix 4, Q6). So quite clearly there are arguments against mother and baby units as some people feel babies should be kept away from the prison environment completely, this includes during pregnancy. Therefore, the UK prison service’s initiative of Mother and Baby units is successful as it allows mother and child to form a relationship, but it means the child spends the first few months of their life inside prison walls. That being said, there are other initiatives put in place by the UK government such as parenting programmes for mothers who will continue to be guardians of their child after prison.

In the USA, the treatment of women and their relationship with their children in prison is a lot different than in the UK. Due to security measures, if a woman goes into labour in prison, they most likely give birth to their child inside prison walls. This can be very distressing for both the mother and child. If the mother is seen as dangerous, she could be handcuffed to prevent her from having too much movement when in labour. After childbirth, most states do not have an action set in place to allow mothers to have time with their child. Instead the mother usually has a few hours maximum to spend with her new born before it is taken away and given to either social services or a relative/family member (2000, as cited in Drummond, T, – “Women in Prison.”) So quite clearly, women are treated much differently than they are in the UK and the effects it could have on their children will be significant. Due to these practices involving child birth in prison in the USA, it can be argued that children could be more disadvantaged as they are a lot more likely to not have any relationship or nurturing as a new born from their mother, and are more likely to end up in care. According to an independent survey, 72% of those asked said they felt these American states should be doing a lot more to build a relationship between mother and child. Of this 72%, 100% said that parenting programmes; nurseries in prisons and family friendly visiting facilities would be a step in the right direction in the American Prison Service. So quite clearly, it could be argued that the USA are failing to establish a way to improve mother-child relationships in prison as they are not cooperating with the fact that many mothers want to be a part of their child’s life even though they are in prison. However, we must also consider the idea that some women may not be fit to parent their child in an appropriate manner and may pose a threat to the child’s wellbeing, for example being violent, drug addictions etc. Therefore, it can be argued that women in prison in the USA are not treated in the right way in terms of having the opportunity to have a relationship with their child.

Canada is thought to be one of the more advanced countries in terms of rehabilitation programmes in prisons for males and females. In particular, female offenders with children have a wide opportunity of programmes and classes they can partake in to allow them to grow a stronger relationship with their child/children. In Canada, mothers and children can participate in the Mother-Child Program which “aims to provide a supportive environment that fosters and promotes stability and continuity for the mother-child relationship, (2014, Canada’s Mother-Child Program: Examining Its Emergence, Usage and Current State.) In this programme, children under the age of six are allowed to stay with their mothers in prison on a part time basis. It is thought that the programme will allow mother and child to form a bond whilst keeping reoffending rates down as mothers will not want to commit more crimes in order to protect their child (2014, Shingle, B., “Canada expanding rarely used program that lets mothers live with children in minimum security prisons.”). So quite clearly, Canada’s Mother-Child programme is successful as it gives mother and child a chance to bond and form a relationship which can keep the child from having to go into care and the mother from reoffending. However, it must be considered that this programme is not widely used in Canada and there is evidence to suggest that mothers do not want to take part in the programme altogether. Howard Sapers, Canada’s ombudsman for federal prisons said that the introduction of this programme is unclear and that: “We’ve been in frequent contact with Corrections Service Canada about this issue, not just frankly about the confusion around the policy… but also about the very low participation rate.” (2014, Shingle, B., “Canada expanding rarely used program that lets mothers live with children in minimum security prisons.) Therefore, the way women are treated in the Canadian criminal justice system is significant. It is a positive approach as it allows the mother and child to bond and live together part time. However, it has very low participation numbers which suggests that the programme is not as successful as hoped.

In conclusion, women are treated much differently in the criminal justice system around the world. In the UK and Canada, mothers are encouraged to form a relationship with their child if possible. The idea is that it will positively impact both the mother and child as it will llow allow for a more secure nurturing for the child as well as preventing mothers from reoffending in the future. However, in the USA, most states do not recognise how important the first year of bonding between mother and child is. In most cases where babies are born in prison, they are only allowed a few hours with their mother before they are sent into the hands of social services or relatives who can look after them.


To conclude, the above shows that female crime does have a damaging impact on the family to a great extent. However, in saying this, the same can be said for male crime. Female crime and imprisonment can cause adverse effects on their children including mental problems and issues with the law in the future. With that being said, the effects of male crime and imprisonment on children are extremely similar. This could be due to the fact that in the 21st century, gender roles are more mixed and mothers and fathers are more likely to be there for their child together. Research and reports by David Farrington, The Independent and USA Today have all fully supported the idea that male and female imprisonment effects the child, and rejects the idea that one gender contributes to more damaging effects than the other. The analysis of these articles and journals helped show that it is when a parent (male or female) commits a crime and is imprisoned that these effects begin to show excluding the situation of a single parent family.

Whilst looking at the effects of male and female imprisonment on the child, it was brought to attention that these effects weigh largely on the type of crime the parent committed and why they committed it, so the reasons behind male and female crimes were examined. With the information and research found by theorist such as Cowie and Slater, and Parsons it was found that there was strong evidence to prove that there are psychological and biological reasons behind female crime. Evidence from The Telegraph and The Prison Reform Trust also proved that mental health issues, monetary gain and influences from partners can also factors which lead to females committing crimes.

Lastly, the way females are treated in the criminal justice system was looked at in both the UK and internationally to prove whether or not prisons can change the way a mother parents their children, or if it can impact the child negatively. Internationally, there were mixed ideas regarding females and how their relationships with children are treated whilst in prison. In the UK, there are mother and baby units which allow the mother and child to bond and nurture whilst still being in prison. In the USA, if a mother was to go into labour in prison, they usually give birth inside prison and can be shackled to their bed to prevent them from moving. They have limited hours with the baby once it is first born, before it is taken away into the hands of a relative, guardian or social services. In Canada, there are a huge variety of parenting programmes and classes that mothers can partake in with their families to ensure that they see them regularly and continue to hold a strong bond with them.

In summary, female crime does have a damaging impact on the family. This was established through researching the effects male and female imprisonment has on children; the reasons why females commit crimes and the way females are treated in the criminal justice system. However, it can be fair to say that parental crime in general has a damaging impact on the family. In today’s society, fathers are just as involved as mothers, so the impact of them committing crimes or being imprisoned will be just as bad as it would be for mothers.


During the three chapters of this dissertation, the predominant sources of information used was emails to and from persons of interest and a questionnaire.

During the evidence gathering process, emails were sent to several persons of interest who had in depth knowledge on the topic area of female crime. Numerous organisations and individuals were contacted including The Prison Reform Trust, The governor of Cornton Vale Prison and The Scottish Prison Service. It was a guided conversation as subject areas of interest were given to the recipients to discuss. This particular source of information was good as it allowed for detailed information to be given regarding the subject area. The information was also recorded and saved for reference so it could be looked back on at a later date. However, some of the responses given strayed away from the subject areas and were unusable as evidence. Similarly, some answers were not sufficient or well detailed enough to use in this dissertation. Some informants failed to respond altogether. In general, emailing was very time consuming and it took a lot of research and consideration to see who would have had the best knowledge to help give some evidence for the topic area.

A questionnaire was also used to provide some research from the general public regarding the topic area. It gave an insight into the general publics’ perceptions and ideas behind female crime and what they think could be done to help tackle the issues surrounding it. It was very informative to have something other than a professional opinion. The questionnaire was quick and easy to create. Answers were given back quickly and there were a lot of respondents, in comparison to emails which were time consuming with limited responses. However, there was not a lot of detail given in the answers so no real analysis could be made from the research that would prove or disprove a point regarding female crime.

To sum up, both sources of information (emails and questionnaire) were valid in helping give evidence to this dissertation. Perhaps if more sources of information were used, such as a face to face interview, then even more valid information could be established that could have been used as evidence in this dissertation.

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