Sonja Starr Sheds Reality about the Legal System between men and women

by spicyray

F you are a criminal defendant, it is better to be a woman than a man. For the same crime and similar criminal history, men are incarcerated much more frequently and for much longer sentences; this is one gap in the gender debate that has been overlooked for an extended period.

Bad news for men

The United States incarceration rates are on a massive scale unheard of in other countries worldwide.  To put this into perspective, if you bring all the people in the country’s prisons, probation, and parole systems together, the total population will be approximately that of the second-largest city in the nation.

 Of the total population, 90% would be made up of men. Men are more likely to break the rules and take far more significant risks.  It begs the question, what happens when men and women get arrested for the same crime?

What Starr discovered

Sonja Starr Gitty Images

Professor Sonja Starr of the University of Michigan Law School examined databases collected from federal criminal cases. Unlike other reports that examine only the sentencing and impacts of perpetrators on victims, Starr took an in-depth look at the various factors, such as looking at the patterns of facts when defendants were arrested to their sentencing.

“It finds large gender gaps favoring women throughout the sentence length distribution (averaging over 60%), conditional on arrest offense, criminal history, and other pre-charge observables,” Starr wrote in her research paper Estimating Gender Disparities in Federal Criminal Cases.

“Female arrestees are also significantly likelier to avoid charges and convictions entirely, and twice as likely to avoid incarceration if convicted.” This is especially true when the race comes into play.

As we all ready know

photo by RODNAE Productions

Writer David Dagan in his article Women Aren’t Always Sentenced By The Book. And Maybe They Shouldn’t Be , wrote, “But people of different races and genders still fare differently under the guidelines. Race looms large, according to a November 2017 report from the sentencing commission,” Dagan said.

“It found that black men in federal court are sentenced to 19.1 percent more time, on average, than white men who, at least on paper, committed the same crimes and have similar criminal histories,” Dagan said. “Women receive much shorter sentences than even white men — though the difference also varies by race.”

The question I had to ask myself

I started to ask myself: What are the few possible explanations for this disparity?  Well, first, I believe women have historically been viewed as being persuaded by their male romantic partners to commit crimes. And secondly, women are more likely to be the primary caretakers of their children, so prosecutors and judges might consider that factor. 

In 2019, an article by James Groh, Two people commit the same crime, one gets 20 years in prison, the other 5 years probation, reported the story of  Carlique DeBerry and Marla Fenner. They both sold fatal doses of fentanyl, and DeBerry received a 20-year prison sentence while Fenner received 5-years of probation.

The difference was one crime was changed as a federal versus the other crime being prosecuted by state courts. “Clique DeBerry, 40, Buffalo, was charged with “distribution of fentanyl causing death” in a federal court,” wrote Groh. Groh quoted Attorney James P. Kennedy, Jr as saying, ‘It was the drugs that the individual distributed that resulted in the death; that requires a mandatory minimum sentence of 20-years.’

But for Fanner, she received five years’ probation because “a first-time offender who traded fentanyl for two yogurts and an apple juice. That person later died from an overdose. The key to her case is that she was charged with third-degree criminal sale of a controlled substance in state court.”

The legal system fights for women

photo by RODNAE Productions

Still, I feel that prosecutors and judges are easily persuaded and convinced that women who commit crimes are mentally unstable, playing a significant role in his issue. And for this, it leaves me to ask: what are the possible solutions?

For a country that is already referred to as ‘the incarceration nation,’ harsher sentences for women is not the answer—perhaps I offer the theory that a more level playfield is needed.  For example, if the courts are making special exemptions for women for particular circumstances, maybe it is high time they make the same accommodations for men as well?

As Starr points out, at least one in every fifty men in the United States is behind bars. Her position is that gender disparity is to blame for this problem.  Despite Starr’s findings, many women have voiced that females are viewed as second-class citizens in the criminal justice system.

Amanda Kippert

Gitty Images

Amanda Kippert, author of the article Women Serve Longer Prison Sentences After Killing Abusers, says this notion that men serve longer jail and prison sentences is nonsense. “According to statistics compiled by the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union), women who kill their partners will spend an average of 15 years behind bars, while men who kill their female partners serve much shorter sentences, on average between 2 to 6 years,” writes Kippert.

“While most would agree homicide dictates a sizable prison stint, the question is, why are women being punished so much more harshly, especially when you consider this statistic: At least 90 percent of women in prison for killing men report having been abused by those men?”

But there’s still questions in my mind

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But once again, I take issue with Kippert. And the fact is, I found a credible report by the bureau of justice statistics that said even if you exclude the cases where women kill their husbands out of fear or self-defense, women still receive shorter sentences than their husbands, like a ten-year difference on average.

The alleged inequities against women, no matter how trivial or inconsequential they are, continue to create awareness, hashtags, action initiatives, and attention.  Meanwhile, millions of men, mostly poor and disadvantaged, are in jails for crimes that could have attracted far lenient punishments.

My final analysis is: its obvious gender bias extends beyond penalties of imprisonment, and men, regardless of what other writers might say men, suffer longer sentences when it comes to crime in comparison to their female counterparts.  


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