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The Female Offender

Course Code: CRIM 3356
Faculty: Humanities & Social Sciences
Department: Criminology
Credits: 3.0
Semester: 15
Typically Offered: TBD. Contact Department Chair for more info.
course overview

This course will examine the female offender by focussing on how women’s criminality is created and responded to, both historically and in the current Canadian context. The connection between women’s victimization and criminality will be highlighted. The significance of patriarchal ideology and the role of social control agencies in the defining and processing of women as offenders will be examined. Some of the topics to be considered are: historical subordination, traditional and contemporary criminological explanations (specific emphasis will be given to feminist theories), characteristics of Canada’s female offenders, control and punishment, and strategies for change.

Course Content

  1. Women's Historical Subordination
    • The Role of Patriarchal Ideology
      • Early History: 5th to 18th Century
      • Later History
  2. Explanations of Female Criminality
    • Traditional Theories
    • Contemporary Theories:
      • Social-Psychological Theories:
        • Socialization Differences
        • Structural Differences
        • Building a Feminist Criminology
  3. The Nature and Extent of Crimes Committed by Canadian Women
    • Conforming Versus Non-Conforming Women
      • "Average" female offender
      • Differences among female offenders
  4. Categories of Female Offenders/Offenses:
    • Property Crime
    • Illegal Drug Involvement
    • Violent Crime
    • Terrorism/The Political Offender
    • Youth Female Offender
    • Indigenous Female Offender
  5. Gender, the Courts and the Law
    • Chivalry - Paternalism Thesis
    • Double-Standard Thesis
    • Law as Ideology Thesis
    • The Legal Defences
  6. The Female Offender, Control and Punishment
    • Pre-Trial Diversion and Alternative Measures
    • Women in Custody:
      • Historical Perspectives
      • The Federal Female Offender in Canada
        • "Creating Choices":  Rhetoric or Reality?
        • The needs of imprisoned female offenders and their children.
  7. The Conditional Release Process
    • Release Planning and Parole Decision Making
    • Problems and Recommendations
  8. Strategies for Reform
    • Reforming the Female Offender
    • Reforming Social Control Agencies
    • Reforming Society

Methods of Instruction

The course will employ a variety of instructional methods to accomplish its objectives, including some of the following: lectures, seminar presentations, audio visual materials including video, small group discussions, research projects and research papers.

Means of Assessment

Evaluation will be based on course objectives and will be carried out in accordance with Douglas College policy.  The instructor will provide a written course outline with specific evaluation criteria at the beginning of the semester.  Evaluation will be based on some of the following:

  1. Short Answer Tests
  2. Exams
  3. Oral Presentation
  4. Research Project/Term Paper
  5. Class Participation

An example of one possible evaluation scheme would be:

Seminar Attendance and Participation  10%
Term Paper  20%
Debate  10%
Midterm Exam  30%
Final Exam  30%
Total 100%

Learning Outcomes

At the conclusion of the course the successful student will be able to:

  1. Describe women's role as being socially, politically and economically subordinate.
  2. Critically examine the role of patriarchal ideology in women's subordination and the production of women's criminality.
  3. Discuss the role of social control agencies in processing women's criminality.
  4. Analyze the impact of the broader social, economic and legal spheres that impact on women's criminality.
  5. Critically analyze historical and contemporary explanations of women’s criminal behaviour. 
  6. Describe the nature and extent of women's involvement in criminal activity. 
  7. Analyze the diversity of women’s experiences of justice, as affected by factors such as age, race (for example First Nations women) and social class.
  8. Discuss the legal defences which may be applied in cases where a female offender has committed a crime of violence.
  9. Explain the impact of the criminal justice system on women offenders and their children.
  10. Analyze women's historical experience in prison and discuss contemporary prison reform.
  11. Explain the conditional release process for the female offender.
  12. Evaluate divergent strategies and policies for reform.

course prerequisites

CRIM 1150

curriculum guidelines

Course Guidelines for previous years are viewable by selecting the version desired. If you took this course and do not see a listing for the starting semester/year of the course, consider the previous version as the applicable version.

course schedule and availability
course transferability

Below shows how this course and its credits transfer within the BC transfer system. 

A course is considered university-transferable (UT) if it transfers to at least one of the five research universities in British Columbia: University of British Columbia; University of British Columbia-Okanagan; Simon Fraser University; University of Victoria; and the University of Northern British Columbia.

For more information on transfer visit the BC Transfer Guide and BCCAT websites.


If your course prerequisites indicate that you need an assessment, please see our Assessment page for more information.