Barry, M. and McIvor, G. (2010) 'Professional decision-making and women offenders: Containing the chaos', Probation Journal, 57, 1, 27-41.
This article draws on the findings from research undertaken in south-east Scotland in 2008 which sought to identify the characteristics of female offenders and to document the views of policy makers and practitioners regarding the experiences of women involved in the Scottish criminal justice system. Despite Scotland having retained a stronger ‘welfare’ focus than elsewhere in the UK (e.g. McAra, 2008), this is not reflected in the treatment of women who offend, with the rate of female imprisonment having almost doubled in the last ten years and community-based disposals falling short of a welfare-oriented system. This article explores why the treatment that women offenders receive in the criminal justice system may be harsh and disproportionate both in relation to their offending and in relation to the treatment of men. It is argued that interventions with women need to be initiated earlier in their cycle of offending and at an earlier stage in the criminal justice process but also that the wide-ranging health, welfare, financial and behavioural needs of women who offend cannot be met solely within an increasingly risk-averse and punitive criminal justice environment.