Sex and Supervision: Guarding Male and Female Inmates

Sex and Supervision: Guarding Male and Female Inmates

Sex and Supervision: Guarding Male and Female Inmates

Sex and Supervision: Guarding Male and Female Inmates

Synopsis

"As a consequence of the women's movement, women have entered a number of traditionally male-dominated occupations. In the field of criminal justice, women are now employed as police officers for routine patrol and sex-neutral assignment as correctional officers. Sex-neutral assignment raises a host of complex questions because it involves both the assignment of women as guards of male prisoners and men as guards of female prisoners. The two main issues of sex-neutral assignment are the privacy rights of prisoners and the effectiveness of correctional officers supervising prisoners of the opposite sex. Pollock's book explores these questions through structured interviews with 60 correctional officers, 40 percent of them women, who have all had experience supervising prisoners of both sexes. The data report their perceptions of their ability to carry out their jobs. Not surprisingly, Pollock finds that prevailing gender-role stereotypes are an important factor in the prison setting.... Pollock's study is informative and well-written. For upper-division undergraduates and above."- Choice

Excerpt

When I first entered Corrections as a custodial officer in a juvenile training school, supervision strictly reflected the sex of the charges. In the boys' cottages, the custodial staff were males, while in the girls' cottage the custodial staff were females. However, the women custodial officers were not expected to deal with "serious" incidents such as fights. In these instances, setting off an alarm was both a call for assistance and a signal which precipitated pandemonium among the girls in residence. They would immediately begin running up and down the halls screaming, "The men are coming, the men are coming. Look out, look out, they'll have clubs." Thus, a fight usually became an all-out disturbance with girls running in all directions, the more experienced ones communicating their agitation to the younger or newer girls.

It was in this manner that the institution responded to calm situations and regain control, and the same was true in most female correctional institutions throughout the country until the 1970s. To me, this situation was the most surreal experience of my initiation into Corrections. Female staff were simply not expected to deal with certain situations, but were to remain "ladylike." As a result, their female charges interacted with males only in instances laden with potential violence or the use of force. When situations got out of hand, the men arrived to restore order by whatever means necessary. I always wondered just what . . .

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