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Abstract

Unquestionably, women offenders have been subjected to discrimination by the criminal justice system. However, the quality and extent of the discrimination have been the subject of debate. Early male scholars wrote that women offenders were treated chivalrously and leniently. Later female scholars have disagreed and contended that under so-called chivalry women offenders were punished more severely, especially for sex crimes. World War I had a national influence on women imprisoned in reformatories for prostitution, as federal legislation was passed to suppress prostitution and related behaviors. This paper examines qualitative and quantitative data from 1913 to 1923, especially data on the women committed to the Ohio Reformatory for Women, the extent of the influence of World War I, and whether feminists' analysis of women's incarceration holds. The authors conclude that the War had some national influence on women incarcerated for prostitution, but little or no influence with respect to women imprisoned in the Ohio Reformatory for Women. The findings also challenge feminist scholars' recent view of women's incarceration, at least with respect to Ohio.

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