Jordan Beth Stevenson
Introduction to Corrections
October 25, 2012
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. 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.
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,...