Female offending is not the norm; they represent the exception in almost every Criminal Justice Agency. The system is designed to deal with men and, policy and practice is frequently based on theories of male offending. This essay will seek to demonstrate that gender bias in the Criminal Justice System (CJS) exists. However it neither results solely in more severe or more lenient treatment as there are many variables affecting the treatment of women, of greatest significance being offence, class and race. I will seek to discuss issues of bias and then relate this to Probation Practice throughout the essay. This essay cannot be comprehensive, therefore I have chosen to focus upon the sentencing process and practice issues, relating issues raised to other areas within the CJS as many of my initial conclusions regarding sentencing are applicable to other areas. Criminology needs to understand female offending and treatment only in doing so can we effectively address it and avoid perpetuating the bias and consequently the problem. .
Disagreement exists as to whether women benefit or suffer from bias in sentencing decisions. However there is sufficient evidence to draw the conclusion that bias exists in relation to gender for both positions. Superficially it appears that there is greater leniency in the treatment of women (Hedderman and Gelsthorpe, Home Office Research Study 170). The reasons for this include, less serious offending (Statistics on Women in the Criminal Justice system 2000), less frequency and tendency to be before the Court for a first offence as well as a "Chrivalric” attitude to women from Criminal Justice Workers. I would argue that the differences in male and female offending in part reflects the natural differences between men and women due to different socialisation. Although the differences in sentencing and treatment in the Criminal Justice system in part reflects the differences in crimes committed (Government Strategy on female Offending 2000), I would argue that they also reflect a difference in attitudes towards men and women which is not based on tangible reasons for different sentencing e.