Going through the absolutely captivating reading, Justifying the punishment of men, one gets an interesting insight into the justice system of the United States of America. This is especially as it relates to men’s sentencing and gender differences. It becomes easy to assume that there is a wide difference between the way justice is handed out between gender and in the larger picture, between the various classes of society. Using empirical data, this research examines several court situations and rulings evincing patterns and theories in the dispensing of justice.
More men come to court with some form of agreed recommendations or caps on their sentences than their female counterparts. And as such one witnesses in court a situation where the judges are less likely to engage in judicial lectures with the men than with the women. At some point, the relative lack of admonition or commentary when delivering judgments in cases regarding men is a bit worrisome. It makes one wonder whether the silence of the judges is due to a lack of optimism about the rehabilitation of the men folk or just plain old drudgery.
Statistics however show that the judges did in fact attempt to give direction and advice to the male defendants not receiving jail sentences (70% to 44%) Looking at the actual cases, Wade,( who attempts rape), Enrico, (arson), and Antonio, (breaking and entering), get no elaborate moralizing or reference to the unacceptability of their behaviors’ made by the judges. Perhaps the judges have given up on them and find no redeeming qualities worthy of mention.
Or maybe they are perceived as hardened, considering the repetitive nature of their crimes, and the fact that they neither admit guilt nor respect the legal system. Even more intriguing is the case of Barry who beat his uncle to death. He is handed a 10 year sentence with little counsel and a heavy absence of judicial remonstrance. As the research progresses a window is opened into the mind set of the judges as they voice sentence justifications and lecture on their theories of punishment.
We find that the judgments are based on a combination of retribution, incapacitation, general and special deterrence considerations. Clarence (tried for breaking an entry), despite an extensive record of misdemeanor convictions is given a light punishment because the judge expresses belief in his rehabilitation, hinged on the support structure of his minister and wife to be. Wayne on the other hand, tried for arson is given a jail term to deter him from committing further crimes. Jail is meant to ‘assist’ him.
Ralph’s case presents an interesting scenario. Though he engages in sexual intercourse with his step-daughter, a minor, his previous sterling records in society give him favorable consideration. He is punished (retribution), but the length of his incarceration is reduced based on his character. It is worthy of note that where defendants have family, particularly their wives, girl friends or mothers as support structures, they are considered more likely to be rehabilitated. Women are apparently, more positive influences than men in the reformation process.
Andrew in assaulting two police officers is sentenced to serve as a notice that such behavior will not be condoned (general deterrence). Jack who beats a 5 year old with a coat hanger and electric rod is sentenced to 17 years. Apparently, there is no redeeming feature in his history. In justifying non jail sentences, the cases of Shane, Richie and John who are handed suspended sentences are given this option due to their previous clean records. ‘Big break cases’ where the judges felt that the defendants deserved to go to jail are dismissed due to inconclusive evidence.
Those termed as ‘troublemakers’ however need some sense knocked into them with some form of punishment. The research shed crucial light on the fact that justifications for sentences are not gender based. Sentencing decisions are carefully executed putting retribution (harm must be punished), special deterrence (accumulated criminal records was deserving of jail), and the personal redeeming qualities of the defendants character and situation, into consideration. It should be noted also that though sentences are hardly gender based, statistics show that more women than men were viewed as capable of reform.