Speaker: Gender crucial factor in penal system


    An internationally recognized author and professor of feminist criminology said Thursday evening that women who enter the penal system with a history of aggression are criticized more often than they are helped.As part of the Green Honors Chair Program in the Kelly Alumni Center, Meda Chesney-Lind, professor of women’s studies at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, presented her lecture, “Bad Girls Go Wild? Media Hypes and Trends in Girls Violence and Aggression.”

    Chesney-Lind has researched feminist criminology since the early 1970s and said she continues to work vigorously because of the large amount of work to be done regarding females within the criminal justice system.

    Chesney-Lind said she wants people to understand that both gender and race play large roles in how females who turn to violence are treated by the criminal justice system.

    “We have lots of women going into prison and young girls going into the juvenile justice system,” Chesney-Lind said. “We need to be looking at their sexual abuse and drug abuse history and try to understand what makes these girls turn to aggression.”

    Chesney-Lind also said she thinks the media plays an important part in how society views violent women and that females with a history of aggression are judged harshly more often than they are helped.

    She said women who are interested in feminist criminology can make a difference in the criminal justice system.

    “My role is to tell women, ‘there is so much work to be done, and you can do it,'” Chesney-Lind said.

    Carol Thompson, associate professor of sociology, criminal justice and anthropology, said Chesney-Lind’s mentorship, influence and impact on the discipline of criminology are nothing short of awe inspiring.

    “She is considered one of the mothers in feminist criminology,” Thompson said. “Dr. Chesney-Lind is one of about four famous criminologists in the country.”

    Freshmen early childhood education major Rebekah Fechner said she had never heard of Chesney-Lind before she came to the lecture, but said she is now interested in looking into violence trends in children.

    Fechner said she was interested in hearing Chesney-Lind talk about how males and females are raised differently and what violence trends are like in schools, especially with the recent school shootings across the United States.

    “I want to know more about how to deal with aggression and violence in students so that when I become a teacher, I will know what to look for,” Fechner said.