Female Correctional Officers Jordan Beth Stevenson Introduction to Corrections October 25, 2012 Saeler Abstract This research paper consists of brief history of how female correctional officers came to be in the system and the court cases that hindered and helped their process. It also consists of the stereotypes and struggles the officers are faced with in this line of work; such as weaknesses and home life association. Sexual harassment and discrimination is a problematic topic that is unavoidable. Statistics will also be mentioned and explained throughout the paper.
Being a female correctional officer is extremely difficult and is not encouraged, but it is possible. Female Correctional Officers Women have been involved in the criminal justice system since the beginning. Females have been trying to work side by side with men in every aspect of finding and controlling justice in society. However, women have not been able to work in all of the areas of the system. The correctional officers of prisons are extremely necessary aspects since the Walnut Street jail in the criminal justice system, yet only men were able to fill that position until the 1970s.
Going through the history of how women came to be able to work as correctional officers will give an insight of the challenges and struggles they went through and still fight today due to the stigma of being a woman. The stereotypes that follow female officers cause hiring and retaining issues amongst the work ethic and daily activities of the officers. Overcoming these problems had been a difficult task and still is being tackled in institutions today. Discriminations are also a problem, especially from the male coworkers.
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Women face possibility of sexual harassment everywhere they go. Working in a male offender facility increases those possibilities. Dealing with the differences between males and females as well as competing for the same position as a man causes tension in the workplace and in society. All of these aspects are large parts of the career for female correctional officers. History Women have been in the correctional system since the early 1930s working in the administrative department and as secretary-like positions.
The idea of a woman doing more than just paperwork was unheard of and it was looked down upon when a woman tried to excel in anything more. In 1977 though, the U. S. Supreme Court heard a case that forced them to address the issue of women in the correctional system as a working officer. The case of Dothard v. Rawlinson stated that a woman was denied a position as a correctional officer at a male institution in Alabama. It stated she was denied the position because of the conditions of the prison and the predatory nature of the male inmates (Seiter, 2011, p. 406).
Women were not seen as equals to men, especially in this department. After this case was publicized, organizations began forming in order to change the law so women could hold the positions they wanted and deserved. The Public Service Employment Act had only hired men to work in male facilities and women to only work in female facilities. In 1977, The Public Service Commission announced that they were going to review the justification for the restriction and try to overturn it. The commission wanted to have the opportunity for all candidates to be equal in being hired.
Certain human right acts also tried to help gain equality by auditing some government agencies to assure there was no discrimination. The Employment Equity Act was formed to enforce compliance for the employment standards (“Women Correctional Officers,” 2012). With this act, women were able to fight back against the department for the chance to be hired as equals to men. In 1979, a case was presented to the U. S. District Court of Iowa, Gunther v. Iowa, which stated that inmate privacy was not a valid reason to not hire women for the positions of correctional officers (Seiter, 2011, p. 06). When this case was determined, it forced all facilities to consider all candidates for the correctional officer positions. And, if they refused to still not hire females simply because of their gender, they could face being sued and having a bad reputation. It was problematic for most institutions at the time because there was a strong stigma against women, claiming they were not able to perform as well as men. Although women are statistically proven to not be as physically strong as men, it is not proven that they are not as good of workers as men.
This logic was flawed and deservingly overturned. Stereotypes and Discriminations Women have stereotypes in every aspect of life. Stereotypes sometimes have a dominating affect on the hiring process and retaining the position. Although credentials and producing good work during your hours is what should count, it does not always take prevalence. It is proven that men are physically stronger than women. That does mean that women do not know how to fight or protect themselves. Women are trained the same as men in order to become a correctional officer.
According to MacDonald (2012), the fact that women go through a menstrual cycle and have PMS can play a role towards their ‘weaknesses’ of being a woman. Many employers see this as a weakness and that it leaves a window of weakness during that time of the month due to the typical symptoms of a menstrual cycle and PMS. Symptoms such as fatigue, headaches or migraines, menstrual cramps, aggressive behavior and mood swings are the mentioned ones. What is not mentioned is that only 30 to 40 percent of women have PMS (Premenstrual syndrome facts, 2001).
So putting this stereotype on all women is statistically wrong. Not only are aspects of every woman seen as weaknesses, but there are a few extreme females who make a title against all other women harder to stand by. A woman who plays the ‘poor helpless female’ or uses the fact that they are good looking to their advantage has a ripple effect in opinion of all women. If a male employer falls for the act and then the female employee is not an efficient worker; he stereotypes all women to be like that one bad employee. Women also get the stereotype of being promiscuous, especially if they are attractive.
If a romance were to form at work, if a coworker hears of how you act with a boyfriend, or if she is single and flirts with one male coworker, it could get manipulated into that woman being a ‘slut’. It takes a long time and a lot of hard work to eliminate that stigma. All of these features are signs of weakness to the men they work with (MacDonald, 2012). Women can be and are as professional as men can be. In fact, it is more likely for a man to be promiscuous because the hormone in which cause sexual arousal is testosterone. Men naturally produce 4 to 7 milligrams of testosterone a day.
Women produce only a tenth of that daily (Kryger, 2011). So, the overall biological sex drive is much higher in male then females. On the other hand, there are the unattractive or just want to do their job and not be social, they are labeled to be a lesbian most of the time. Female correctional officers also struggle with having balancing a home life while working the long and sometime odd hours of a correctional officer. Women are reprimanded for not being more involved with their children or families lives because of the mentality the older generation still has of the women should be a stay at home mother (MacDonald, 2012).
Sexual Harassment Female Correctional Officers are faced on a daily basis with the possibility of sexual harassment. When working in a male facility, women are in very close quarters with sexually deprived offenders, including sexual offenders. The sexual tension among the men is going to be high but when a woman is mixed into the tension, the situation could easily escalate. There are three main models of sexual harassment that have been found in male prisons against female officers. The first model is the natural-biological model.
It is best explained as harassment that is not harmful but rather brought out simply by natural sexual attraction. Just by placing female correctional officers in the facility increases this type of harassment. The next model is the sociocultural model and is power driven. Men typically feel as they are better and stronger than women both mentally and physically. So, the differences between genders in any workplace could bring out this type of harassment. The last type is the organizational model. This model is best explained by the hierarchical relations.
By having a woman in power, such as a correctional officer, the male in a less powerful position want to be in power so they try to use sex to bring the female down to their level or lower. It is a manipulative attempt (Savicki, Cooley and Gjesvold, 2003). All three of these types of sexual harassment are unacceptable and instead of offering more readily available programs to help sexual offenders, the solution is to take the women out of the correctional facilities. The question then lies; what happens to the women on the streets or in the homes of the offenders once they are released from prison?
The inmates can find several ways to harass the female officers from simply calling them names like “sexy”, among other names on much worse levels, to actually masturbating and ejaculating on to the officers as they walk by. Some inmates will act ill or as if they are in trouble to lure the officers into or close to the cell for a chance to grab at the officer in a sexual manner (Monthly law journal, 2010). Even though the name calling seems minor and almost unimportant compared to physically being harassed in some way, both actions take a toll on the mentality of the officer.
The mentality strength of both men and women are about equal. This says that if a man in a female facility were to undergo similar harassment, they too would feel the mental stress and damage being done. Yet, men are still in female prisons and have been since the first female institution was established. Statistics Female correctional officers make up 22. 3% of all employees in the department in the United States (Ronquillo, 2008). Female correctional officers are typically single, either never married or divorced.
The stress on both the woman and the spouse is higher than most careers due to the high risk of the job. It has also been shown that women are more likely to have attained a higher education than males (Savicki, Cooley and Gjesvold, 2003). With more education, it opposes a larger threat on the males working along their sides because they could more easily get a better position or be promoted. A higher education also gives an advantage as to adaptation and flexibility to a variety of different careers, including moving up from a correctional officer to a warden.
Females also tend to view their job differently than men. Women are likely to choose a corrections position with the interest in human service or rehabilitation, whereas men primarily will seek the career of law enforcement or other security aspect (Savicki, Cooley and Gjesvold, 2003). The mindset of women, although different from most men, is still fitting for the position of correctional officer. Conclusion For women living in and trying to compete in a male dominated world seems impossible.
Female correctional officers have many difficulties and challenges to overcome by not only the inmates, but by their coworkers and administrative personnel. It was a struggle to initiate being in the field of corrections and it is still a struggle today to get a position and retain that position. Stereotypes, sexual harassment and the severity of the job alone are factors a female correctional officer has to conquer. To keep the position they have to fight harder than men. It is not an easy career to maintain but that makes it even more rewarding when one does succeed. References 2001). Premenstrual syndrome facts, disease nutritional support strategies. Retrieved from http://www. healingwithnutrition. com/pdisease/pms/pms. html Kryger, D. (2011, February 13). Women and testosterone. Retrieved from http://www. wellnessmd. com/index. php? option=com_content&view=article&id=64&Itemid=106 MacDonald, J. (2012). Women in corrections. Retrieved from http://desertwaters. com/? page_id=733 Monthly law journal article: Civil liability for sexual harassment of female employees by prisoners. (2010). Retrieved from http://www. aele. org/law/Digests/jail137. htm
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