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By Thomas Hobbes, Richard Tuck, Michael Silverthorne

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Current trends: the ‘search for equivalence’ The search for the ‘new breed of female criminal’ continues into the twentyfirst century. Heidensohn (2006: 7) notes that despite the fact that questions about gender, crime and justice have increased apace in various settings, the ‘persistence of [these] original themes is striking’. One need only look at the headlines in recent years to see evidence of the growing unease around young women’s misbehaviour in the public sphere (see Jewkes, 2004 for a good overview of the media construction of criminal women).

All in all, the desire to demonstrate that ‘girls do it too’ has increasingly devastating effects on girls (Chesney-Lind and Irwin, 2004; Worrall, 2004: 47; Alder and Worrall, 2004). The search for equivalence continues with the discovery of the female sex offender and the female perpetrator of domestic violence, both of which add further fuel to the identification of the new female criminal. Matravers (1997, 2001) shows that whilst women had previously been identified as sex offenders, their involvement was constructed through discourses of passivity, normally undertaking their role as the unwilling accomplices of men.

To recap, in claiming the authority to imprison one of its citizens, the state is undertaking a responsibility for the prisoner’s health, safety and physical wellbeing that is qualitatively greater than that owed to free citizens (Mathiesen, 2000). The Prisons Inspectorate does already rely heavily on international human rights standards in setting its ‘expectations’ against which it measures conditions for prisoners (HM Inspectorate of Prisons, 2004). The standards are broad-based and incorporate every aspect of prison life, including transportation and reception, healthcare, education, legal rights and protection from harm.

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