Women, Crime and Prison

Why We Need Feminist Criminology?

The number of women in prisons is on the rise worldwide, and this global trend is one of the most frequently researched topics in the field of criminology. However, can traditional criminology explain this phenomenon? How to justify the increased percentage of women who participate in drug trafficking, driving under the influence of illegal substances or alcohol, theft, and violence, and can this be related to one specific cause? Considering the complexity of the problem, it is necessary to investigate all the aspects, including the discursive space in which female criminality appears as a consequence of increased social control, less tolerant criminal policy, and new cultural patterns. Only comprehensive research can help conclude the real reasons for the increase in female criminal activities. We should bear in mind that there is a connection between the criminalization of women and the social context in which the process takes place, as well as the connection between the victimization of women and their criminalization. In other words, we need a feminist criminology perspective because it considers different epistemological positions when discussing relations between women and crime that can explain what drives women to criminal behaviors and how they are being criminalized, marginalized, and victimized along the way.

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Decriminalising Women

Formal as well as alternative justice must start from the idea that a criminalized woman is a marginalized woman. In this sense, informal spaces for achieving social justice should be guided by the process of decriminalization of women. Assessments of the effects of imprisonment on crime ignore the unemployment that accompanies incarceration, the costs of family visits, separation from children, and a cynical attitude towards the justice system that grows among socially excluded and marginalized groups. Often, women who have committed a crime are themselves victims of serious crimes. The neoliberal shifting of responsibility from the social to the individual level represents social and economic marginalization as individual incapacity, and gender oppression as a personal psychological attribute. In the context of criminalized women, this is a significant change from earlier ideas that the state has a responsibility to support or rehabilitate women. Female convicts are now responsible for managing themselves, managing their own needs, and minimizing the risks, they pose to the public and themselves.

Neoliberalism and Commodification of Female Criminality

Neoliberalism as an economic system and ideology, lifestyle, and dominant worldview represents a given framework within which marginalized and criminalized woman is forced to find their resilience strategies because the system shifts all the responsibility to the individual while failing to provide comprehensive solutions for major problems such as gender inequality. Nevertheless, women react in an intersectional way to gender, economic, class, and other aspects of their existence, against neoliberal notions of personal responsibility. The informal-formal context of justice provides women with the space and techniques to open options that include raising the educational level, training, and empowerment including the state and civil sector, as well as the local community.

An additional problem is the tendency of neoliberalism to commodify everything, including immaterial phenomena and lifestyles. In addition to the commodification of prisons and prison life in popular culture, there is also the commodification of criminalized women. Because popular culture is always political, the trends in the entertainment industry reflect social norms and show what is normalized and socially acceptable. The popular series Orange is the New Black clearly shows that there is a need for the consumption of entertaining content inspired by the voyeuristic observations of criminalized women.

Olivera Pavićević