This book aims to provide an overview of women’s relationship to the criminal justice system and to explore key issues in the regulation of ‘respectable’ and ‘deviant’ femininities over the last four centuries. Three phenomena relating to women and criminal justice have been recently highlighted as matters of social concern. Firstly, reports have drawn attention to the rising number of women in England’s prisons: between 1992 and 2002 the female custodial population increased by 173 per cent.1 Secondly, it has been noted that women’s experience of rape is rarely likely to lead to successful prosecution: only 5.6 per cent of reported cases resulted in successful conviction in 2002.2 Thirdly, academic studies have commented on the ways in which the involvement of teenage girls in criminality, including a gang culture of bullying and violence, has been sensationalised as a growing trend in the newspaper press.3 Yet in order to understand contemporary debates and concerns we need to turn to the past. The ‘newness’ of recent patterns and trends can only be fully assessed by placing them in a broader historical context, enabling us to comment on continuity and change across time. There is no doubt that criminal justice has become highly politicised as increases or decreases in crime rates are viewed not merely as a barometer of the failure or success of government policy but as evidence of the state of the nation. As we shall show, however, the process of ‘counting’ is riddled with difficulties, particularly when our main subjects — women — have often been hidden not merely from ‘history’ but also in part from the mechanisms of criminal justice.4
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- Introduction: ‘Vice’ and ‘Virtue’?
Louise A. Jackson
- Macmillan Education UK
- Sequence number