Research published in the Journal of Criminal Justice suggests that courts tend to go easier on women compared to men in some aspects of criminal proceedings.
For their study, researchers decided to take a broader look at gender disparities in the criminal justice system. A team of four researchers explored two key aspects of criminal trial hearings – judgments made at the initial hearing and during the sentencing process. Previous studies had examined single aspects of the criminal trial, but no study had looked at gender disparities at both stages simultaneously. Researchers analyzed more than 3,500 felony cases referred after 2009 in the United States.
Gender Bias Findings
After analyzing the data, researchers uncovered:
- Women were less likely to be detained before trail than men. They were 46 percent less likely to be held in jail prior to trial.
- Women released on bond were given lower bond amounts. Their bond amounts were set 54 percent lower on average than what men were required to pay.
- Women were 58 percent less likely to be sentenced to prison.
- There was no statistically significant difference in the length of prison sentence between the sexes. However there were some differences in sentences based on the specific type of crime. For example, women who committed theft crimes generally received longer sentences than men, but women typically received shorter sentences for crimes like arson, breaking and entering and receiving stolen property.
- African American females were treated differently than white females. On average, black women received higher bond amounts and were more likely to be sent to prison than white females.
Researchers offered several possible explanations for the results. First, they hypothesized the judges may be more lenient on women who conform to “traditional” gender roles and who appear docile and in need of protection. They also believe women may receive harsher sentences if judges believe it will serve to protect women in the future. The authors concluded by saying policymakers should consider standardizing the judicial process to eliminate potential racial and gender disparities in the court system.
Related source: Journalist Resource