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|Appears in Collections:
|eTheses from Faculty of Social Sciences legacy departments
|Gender, social enquiry reports, and social work disposals
|University of Stirling
|Throughout the nineties a range of factors, not least the series of suicides at Cornton Vale women's prison, highlighted concerns about how the criminal justice system deals with female offenders in Scotland. There has been a review of community-based disposals and the use of custody for women (Scottish Office, 1998a), an Inspection of Cornton Vale was conducted (HMI, 2001), and a Ministerial Group on Women's Offending was set up (Scottish Executive, 2002a). Despite this concern the numbers of female offenders being sentenced to custody has continued to rise.
This study sought to examine the nature of criminal justice social work services delivered to female offenders and the way in which ideological and policy shifts have impacted on it.
Differences relating to gender, with regard to both practitioners and clients, within the
context of criminal justice social work in Scotland,w ere considered.T his included a
consideration of the impact of the policy shift from the "welfare" to the "justice" model.
Thirty-five interviews were conducted with criminal justice social work staff and material was drawn from 420 Social Enquiry Reports. The study examined practices and policies which relate to how women are supervised, how these relate to the presentation of information in social enquiry reports, and in turn how this may relate to the final court disposal imposed.
A discrepancy between policy and practice was identified in that the latter draws on the "welfare" model more than is endorsed by formal policy. This greater emphasis on the
"welfare" model applies to work with female offenders in particular. There were concerns
amongst criminal justice social work staff that such a difference in approach might be
discriminatory. A new "welfare" model of supervision appears to have been adopted in the supervision of female offenders. This model emphasised the importance of the working relationship, between supervisor and client, within which women offenders should be allowed scope for negotiation.
Information on female offenders derived from both interviews with criminal justice staff and the data obtained from SERs is used to review social control theory (Hirschi, 1969), as it exists, as an explanation of female offending. Carlen's study (1988) of female offenders suggested that integral to their involvement in offending was a rejection of the controls to which they are subjected and of their gender roles. By contrast the profile of women offenders as identified in this study suggests that women are offending partly in an endeavour to conform to, or at least cope with, their gender roles.
Female offenders were reported as having experienced greater adversity and this appears to havee licited a protective response from social workers. This protection began in women's childhoods and is evident in their treatment as adults. The organisation of community service is considered by female social workers to have an inherent gender bias which renders it less suitable for female offenders. These concerns appear to have foundation in terms of an apparent gender bias in the operation of community service schemes.
Female offenders sentenced to community service were more likely to have had their SERs compiled by male SER writers, while female offenders sentenced to probation were more likely to have their SERs compiled by female SER writers. Female social workers
specifically appear to adopt a stronger welfare orientation when compiling reports on female offenders apparently motivated by an inclination to protect. This has implications for gender specific allocation of work. The effect is not protection if reports arc undermining community service as a possible alternative to custody for women, as appears to be the case when the SER writer is female.
|Thesis or Dissertation
|Department of Applied Social Science
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