No. X (1983)

Penalties imposed on women by the courts in 1917-1980

Janina Błachut
Jagiellonian University, Faculty of Law and Administration

Published 1983-10-10


  • types of penalties,
  • penalty amount,
  • imposing penalties,
  • prison sentences,
  • types of crime,
  • statistic data

How to Cite

Błachut, J. (1983). Penalties imposed on women by the courts in 1917-1980. Archives of Criminology, (X), 87–102.


     The general picture of sentences pronounced by the courts is affected by the visible differences in the structure of offences comitted by men and women.

          Prison sentences (the decisive factor in severity of sentence) are less frequently imposed on women. This is not the case, however, with regard to all offences. There are also situations where prison sentences are imposed more often on women than on men. Equally frequently, and sometimes even more often, women are sentenced to longer terms of imprisonment, that is, to terms of morethan three years.

          Suspended prison sentences are commoner among women than among men. But this is not the predominant type of sentence in all types of crime. For sometimes it is less frequent than limitation of liberty, and fines. In cases of suspended prison sentences, women are more likely than men to get sentences of less than a year's duration.

            Women are more likely than men to receive sentences consisting of a fine plus imprisonment. This is a consequence of the kind of offence they commit. Generally the fine is in the order of from 5,000 to 10,000 zlotys. The lowest fines are imposed on women more often than on men.

           The lowest sentences of limitation of liberty are imposed more often on women than on men. In both groups, the sentences range mostly from six months to a year. True, there are certain types of crime where maximum prison sentences are imposed on women more often than on men, but generally speaking the opposite is usually the case.

          Women, rather  than men, are more likely to be given the lowest fines (imposed as independent penalties); more rarely, with the exception of a few types of ,crime, are they given the heaviest fines.

         It should be noted that as regards crimes against the family and the care of children (Art. 184, Art. 186), severer penalties are imposed against women, They are more frequently given higher fines along with terms of imprisonment, and also longer sentences of limitation of liberty.

       Greater leniency in the sentences imposed on women (a trend mentioned in many criminological studies) is indicated by the higher frequency of sentences that do not include imprisonment, although this trend as regards leniency is not always borne out by the severity of the sentences imposed.


  1. Błachut J., Kobiety recydywistki w świetle badań kryminologicznych, Zakład Narodowy im. Ossolińskich Wydawnictwo Polskiej Akademii Nauk, Wrocław 1981.
  2. Jasiński J., Charakterystyka przestępczości ujawnionej [w:] Zagadnienia przestępczości w Polsce, Wydawnictwo Prawnicze, Warszawa 1975.
  3. Jasiński J., Kształtowanie się polityki karnej sądów w latach 1972-1976, „Państwo i Prawo" 1978, z. 2.
  4. Mannheim H., Comparative Criminology, t. II, Routledge, London 1965.
  5. Nagel I., Sex Differences in the Proceeding of Criminal Law [w:] A. Morris, L. Gelsthorpe (eds.), Women and Crime, University of Cambridge, Institute of Criminology, Cambridge 1981.
  6. Pollak O., The Criminality of Women, New York 1950.
  7. Smart C., Women, crime and criminology. A feminist critique, Routledge and Kegan Paul, London 1976.
  8. Walker N., Crime and Punishment in Britain, Edinburgh University Press, Edinburgh 1965.