Women and the Criminal Justice System

A discussion on the gender bias in a case of a battered woman who stabbed her boyfriend.

This paper presents the case of a woman who fatally stabbed her live-in boyfriend after he abused her, but was acquitted by the court. The paper argues that at a time when there is zero tolerance for domestic violence, the courts are erring in showing greater tolerance to battered women who take the law into their own hands. The paper contends that this woman was a victim of abuse but that did not give her the right to kill. The paper explains how the sentimentality involved and the stereotype of woman as victims allowed her to be treated in a manner that acquitted her.
“The courts treated Angela leniently. Women were much less likely than men to be imprisoned unless the female offender did not fit the stereotypical female role, for example, if she was a “bad mother” who abused or abandoned her children, or if she did not have a family to care for. This resulted in one of the most dramatic disproportional ratios in criminal justice- -women composed roughly only four percent of the total prison population for years. Of course, part of this was because most women committed far less serious crimes than men, but at least some part of the difference was due to sentencing practices. Angela was a battered woman so she was given preferential treatment. She murdered someone but in light of her gender and the political situation surrounding the crime she was released. [2]”