Female correctional officers face harsh battles, but have important rights

Given that correctional officers work among violent criminals on a daily basis, it is no surprise that they serve in one of the most dangerous professions in America. Some occupational threats are preventable, however, and the failure of prison administrators to prevent them and punish wrongdoers inflicts inordinate damage on women who practice in the profession.

A 2018 New York Times exposé revealed the hellish environment female correctional officers step into every day, and the devastating inaction by prison administrators when women came forward with claims of sexual and physical abuse. Much of the abuse was swept under the rug by officials, and some was even perpetrated by fellow guards and superiors.

The problem goes beyond inmates

Correctional officers learn expect threats from prison inmates, especially those serving time for violent crimes and sex offenses. A true betrayal occurs, however, when prison authorities fail to punish offenders or follow up on reports of abuse. Prisons are not exempt from state and federal laws protecting employees from abuse and harassment. Women who work in correctional facilities are protected by statutes outlawing:

  • Discrimination: Women who work as prison guards must be afforded the same opportunities as men.
  • Sexual harassment: Sexual harassment in any form is unlawful, including jokes, touching and the sharing of sexually explicit pictures. Prison administrators must protect women from threats by inmates as well as fellow employees.
  • Retaliation: If prison administrators demote you, fire you or take any other adverse action against you for coming forward with a claim of abuse, they are breaking the law.

Knowing you have rights is one thing. Asserting those rights in the legal system is another. This is why it is important for correctional officers facing abuse and discrimination to consult with attorneys who handle civil rights and employment litigation.