Critically analyse the use of imprisonment for young females.
This essay will critically analyse the use of imprisonment, specifically for young female offenders, based on historical conditions, current prison provisions, the use of statistics and both the physical and mental well being of the girls. In order to contextualise the imprisonment of women today, some historical awareness is necessary.
Although prisons had been in existence for some time for both male and females, punishment from the seventeenth century in Britain relied less on imprisonment, and more on public shaming, and punitive approaches such as stoning, being put in the stocks and even death (Carlen 2004).
It may be that because of the perception of women as morally superior and more innocent than men that women were placed in prison because the authorities found them more difficult to control effectively. It was easier to place them in prison because they were a nuisance rather than addressing the problem of their discipline.
At this time, Duckworth also identifies how confusing the prison system was for females. Although they were imprisoned with men, the terms of their sentences and the conditions they suffered were vastly different. The length of women’s sentences were not made clear to them and because they were given no hard labour they were often confined to small spaces for long periods of time (Duckworth 2002). Carlen (2004) and Duckworth (2002) acknowledge that for young women the use of prisons historically were unfair and harsh. Conditions were particularly bad for very young women as they were treated as miniature adults (Aries, 1960).
Children and young people are viewed very differently today. The age of criminal responsibility in England currently stands at 10 years old, although it is argued that this is still too young as a much higher age limit is placed on other prescriptions within the law. For example; to buy a fire arm you must be 17, to buy cigarettes and alcohol you must be 18. To be old enough to vote politically you must be 18, yet to understand right from wrong you must be 10.
According to the Home Office figures, only 4% of young people dealt with through the police every year receive custodial sentence (Connexions Direct, 2010). However, this is only for young people who have committed severe or repeated offences, and only then as a last resort (BBC, 2011). Figures released by HM Prison in 2004 stated that 70 young females were being held in custody in Youth Offenders Institutes.
There are three different institutions in which a custodial sentence can be served depending on the individual age, circumstances, needs and the type of offence committed. (Bhardwa et al 2010). These are Secure Children’s Homes, Secure Training Centres and Young Offenders Institutions.
Age is considered (as well as vulnerability) in deciding which institution is used. Secure Children’s Homes are generally for those aged 12-14; Secure Training Centres for up to 17 year olds and Young Offenders Institutes can be used for those ages 15 to 21. Offenders over 21 years are sent to adult prisons.
The most common form of custodial sentence is a Detention and Training Order. This can be imposed upon a young person aged between 12 and 17. They can last between 4 months and 2 years, the first part being spent in custody and the second in the community under the supervision of the Youth Offending Team.
The custodial section of a sentence for girls aged up to 16 would most likely take place in a Secure Children’s Home run by the local authority social services. The aim there is to work individually with the young women concentrating on...