Women and the Death Penalty 2
Whether one sees the death penalty as justice or barbarism, surely the perpetrator's gender should be irrelevant. But that is not the way it works in the real world. We are consistently more likely to seek mitigating circumstances for women's heinous deeds, to see female criminals as disturbed or victimized rather than evil. Female offenders, both girls and women, are so seldom found on our death rows that once condemned they may be ignored and forgotten. The purposes allegedly served by capital punishment are seemingly equally applicable to both sexes; however overwhelming evidence suggests that the death penalty favors women.
It is unlikely that many of the woman given the death sentence in the United States will ever see the inside of a chamber like this one in California (pictured below). Of the 3,487 persons on death row in the U.S. as of June 2004, only 49 of them, or 1.3 percent, were women.
California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (2009). Death Chamber at
Central California Women’s Facility. Retrieved March 8, 2009 from:
Women and the Death Penalty 3
Picture in your mind a condemned murderer being sentenced to death, eating a last meal, or trudging ever-so-reluctantly into the execution chamber. In your mind’s eye, do you see this wretched person as a woman? Most of us do not, given that over ninety-nine percent of the people executed in the United States are men.
The tendency to exclude domestic homicides from capital murder, certainly as compared
to stranger homicides and felony murders tends also to exclude women's homicides as compared to men's homicides. Death sentences and actual executions for female offenders are rare in comparison to such events for male offenders.
Women are more likely to be dropped out of the system the further the capital
punishment system progresses. Statistical data indicates a screening out effect. In general,...