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This brief essay reviews three articles related to experience of women with the criminal justice system and how this experience is mediated by race. One of the important themes in the literature is that there is a link between race, gender, and female experience and that scholarship in general is required to consider the role of female subjectivity in exploring female experience. The examples from literature taken in this review are related to the female experience with criminal justice system.
Cossins (2003) highlights an important theme of race, gender and sexual assault trials by demonstrating differential treatment of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal complainants within sexual assault trials. Cossins (2003) In particular, the article analyses the cultural significance of the concepts of sex and race within the sexual assault trial by comparing and contrasting the analytic utility of the sexed bodies approach and the concept of gender for understanding different women’s experiences. It argues that neither of these approaches adequately describes the experiences of black and indigenous women and, instead, presents the concept of convergence for explaining the interactions of sex and race and revealing the unique vulnerabilities of black and indigenous women within legal cultures.
A theme explored in literature is related to how female criminality can be impacted by gender and race and how criminal justice system is not at this time able to consider these issues while prosecuting and sentencing women. For instance, Hales and Gelsthorpe (2012) highlight the relationship between female experience with the criminal justice system in the context of deception and fraud in relation to immigration status for access work or benefits, or on entry or exit from the UK. Hales and Gelsthorpe (2012) point out that the subjective experiences of women who are prosecuted and convicted of these crimes have not been identified by the criminal justice system and the fact that many women who are convicted of crimes related to immigration are sentenced without the fact of their being victims of trafficking being subject of disclosure.
An important theme relates to how race may mediate the experience with remorse and guilt after commission of offence. Hudson and Bramhall (2005) explore this theme in context of pre-sentence reports and risk-assessment schedules prepared on white and Asian offenders. The researchers report that there is a difference in how Asian and white offenders approach remorse and guilt and that there is a need to include risk assessment in ethnic monitoring and research. The theme of subjective feelings of remorse and guilt and how this may be important for assessing risk with reference to Asian offenders is highlighted in this work.
To conclude this with a question on Race, Gender and Sentencing, the question can be framed as follows: “How does the subjective experience of intersectionality of race and gender influence the way in which women interact with the criminal justice system? Is there is a need to explore the theme of non white women’s experience with the criminal justice system from different perspectives like domestic violence, immigration, rape, and sexual violence?”
Cossins, A. (2003). Saints, Sluts and Sexual Assault: Rethinking the Relationship between Sex, Race and Gender. Social & Legal Studies, 12(1), 77 – 103.
Hales, L., & Gelsthorpe, L. (2012). The criminalisation of migrant women. Cambridge: Institute of Criminology.
Hudson, B., & Bramhall, G. (2005). Assessing the ‘Other’: Constructions of Asianness in risk assessments by probation officers. British Journal of Criminology, 45(5), 721-740
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