In Conflict with the Law: Women and the Canadian Justice System


302 pages
Contains Illustrations, Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-88974-054-2
DDC 364.3'74'0971




Edited by Ellen Adelberg and Claudia Currie
Reviewed by Andrea Levan

Andrea Levan is an assistant professor and co-ordinator of the Women’s
Studies Program, Thorneloe College, Laurentian University.


This book is an updated version of the editors’ 1987 text, Too Few To
Count. Disappointingly, only four of the ten essays are new, though two
others have been statistically updated. Like the earlier book, In
Conflict with the Law provides an excellent overview of the
circumstances of federally sentenced women in Canada. Essays that have
been retained include a statistical overview of women and crime in
Canada, a review of theoretical perspectives on women and crime, a
history of P4W (the prison for women in Kingston, Ontario), and chapters
on media stereotyping and Native issues.

Two of the new essays provide a very useful overview of the 1990 Task
Force on Federally Sentenced Women, which in its report recommended the
closure of P4W and condemned the punitive treatment of women prisoners.
Margaret Shaw’s essay outlines the often problematic process by which
the report’s recommendations have begun to be implemented. Adelberg
and the Native Women’s Association of Canada discuss the substantial
contribution of aboriginal women to the report and their recommendation
of a healing lodge.

Sheila Noonan examines the use of the battered woman syndrome as a
defence by women who kill their abusive partners. As a number of
feminists have pointed out, this defence is problematic because it
reifies women as victims, silences them, and gives expert medical
witnesses the power to explain and interpret their actions. Noonan
succinctly reviews these problems and discusses other possible
strategies being considered in the United States and elsewhere. France
Shaver’s article on prostitution is perhaps the least interesting
addition. It does gather some useful statistics and review some of the
major feminist perspectives on prostitution, but it is the only essay in
the book that does not substantially develop the theme of imprisonment.


“In Conflict with the Law: Women and the Canadian Justice System,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 15, 2024,