Women, Gender and Imprisonment



On 2 January 1990 at Wakefield Crown Court a first-time offender, (let’s call her Sharon Smith), was given six months youth custody after pleading guilty to helping other people steal £4000 worth of goods from the store where she was checkout assistant. She became pregnant soon after the offence came to light and, by the time she was sentenced, had a ten week-old daughter. She was allowed to take the baby into prison with her. The media furore which greeted her imprisonment, however, was neither because this was her first offence, nor because she was a youthful offender — two factors which could have been expected to result in the non-custodial sentence recommended by Probation. What caused the case to become national news for the two weeks prior to appeal were the remarks made by the judge who, in sentencing her, told Ms Smith that he had to impose a custodial sentence to deter other young women from becoming pregnant in order to avoid imprisonment. (Though he admitted that he had no grounds for assuming that Ms Smith herself had become pregnant with such intent.)


Criminal Justice System Probation Officer Foreign National Male Prisoner Prison Officer 
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Copyright information

© Pat Carlen 1998

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Social and Policy StudiesBath UniversityUK

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