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31 May 2012
Leniency in sentencing female sex offenders quantified
by George Atkinson

Female sex offenders receive considerably lighter sentences for the same crimes than males, a new study in Feminist Criminology has found.

Researchers Randa Embry and Phillip M. Lyons looked at the sentences that male and female sex offenders received for specific sex offenses and found that even after the implementation of sentencing guidelines to ensure equality in sentencing, male sentences, on average, were between 6 percent and 31 percent longer than female sentences for the same or similar crimes.

"It appears as if the criminal justice system actually treats women more leniently than men," the researchers noted. They offer an explanation for this disparity by canvassing the American idea that "women are weaker and, therefore, must be protected at all times regardless of their status as victims or offenders."

The findings are based on data from the U.S. Department of Justice's National Corrections Reporting Program from the years 1994 to 2004. The offenses included rape, statutory rape, sexual assault, child sexual assault and forcible sodomy.

According to the researchers, the findings show that women, regardless of the offense for which they are being sentenced, continue to be viewed as individuals who should be protected by the justice system. "Obviously, as a social institution, the criminal justice system is reluctant to break those social norms and gender roles in response to atypical gendered behaviour," they concluded.

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Source: Feminist Criminology

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