Punishment for Women
"While not claiming any
particular privileges for women where crimes are concerned, we are not
unmindful of the fact that it is harder for a woman to reinstate
herself socially than for a man. To this end, punishment has often to
be adjusted and differently applied.
In spite of the murmuring minority, this would seem a good place to
make the plea that women of experience be heard when the old penal
laws are amended and the newer ones framed.
There are times, too, during certain physical crises when women,
through nervousness, are apt to be less responsible, periods in which
they seem hypnotized by their own hysteria, and in which they might
almost be demented.
These are most difficult cases to understand or treat properly, and it
is not likely we shall ever do so until the courts have the assistance
of psychopaths and clinicians. It is the realization of one's
ignorance in such cases that makes the work of the conscientious
magistrate, whether male or female, seem burdensome beyond endurance.
It must not be deduced from these remarks that we favor laxness in the
treatment of women criminals, or that we deprecate custodial care for
those of them who are mentally weak.
The weak-minded are more to be feared than the wicked, in that there
is no hope for them. "What is written on their forehead," says a Hindu
sage, "will be there and nothing more." We should not allow the
imbecile or the feeble-minded criminal to become a burden upon the
workers lest the nation become weak. We must segregate these people
till they become less numerous, making them as happy as circumstances
permit, and, if possible, self-supporting.
To the criminal who is only vicious, and not feeble-minded, jails are
often sanatoria where they recover their nerves and their physical
strength. Many would die years sooner if it were not for the rest and
healing of the prison. Besides, it gives them a chance to break with
their old companions, and to start afresh in life if so disposed"
Emily Murphy, “A Straight
Talk on Courts,” Maclean’s 28.18 (1 Oct. 1920)