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Female Prison Workers Face Sexual Harassment

November 27th, 2018 Victoria Breese

Another employment sector is under fire for sexual harassment in today’s #MeToo era. Female federal prison workers are coming forward to describe their experiences with sexual harassment at work. Prisoners have allegedly threatened rape, exposed themselves, and even groped female employees. To make matters worse, male employees have encouraged this unacceptable behavior and even participated in it.

New York Times Examination

The New York Times recently conducted a thorough examination of the unique challenges that female federal prison workers face. The examination revealed a culture of protecting harassers and downplaying the concerns of victims. For example, Jessica Hodack, a prison secretary in California, was told by her manager to “let it go” after a prisoner threatened to rape her. Melinda Jenkins, a prison security guard, was groped by an inmate and subsequently was told to “play it down” from her superiors. This investigation suggests that prison management is allowing a toxic culture of sexual harassment to fester in federal prisons.

2017 Lawsuit

The issue of sexual harassment in prisons has existed for many years. In 2017, the Bureau of Prisons paid $20 million to female employees at a prison in Florida. The suit revealed that managers had continually ignored female complaints about inmates masturbating in front of them. Prisoners referred to this act as “gunning.” Female employees sought to avoid areas known as “gun ranges.” 135 women testified in the case. One woman said that she saw roughly 25 to 30 inmates masturbating during one shift. Male officers mocked the female employees who complained about this serious issue. In the Bureau of Prisons, women now make up a third of the agency’s workforce. The prisoners these women oversee are 93 percent male. The more recent New York Times examination suggests that the workplace culture in prisons has not dramatically changed since this 2017 lawsuit.

Should Women Work in Male Prisons?

In response to these devastating stories of sexual harassment, some have questioned whether women should work in male prisons. Several female prison workers have responded to explain why they desire to remain in these seemingly dangerous jobs. Susan Dean, a prison librarian, explained that federal prisons are usually located in small towns with few employment opportunities. Women often need these jobs to make a living. She argued that reform needs to happen, adding that women are just as entitled to these jobs as men. Another federal prison employee said that her access to training helped her handle catcalling and harassment from inmates. With the proper training, women are equipped to handle these difficult situations. Finally, a male correctional nurse commended his female colleagues, saying that they were often better than male officers at making inmates follow orders. He said that female employees were often able to use words rather than physical force.

Seek Legal Assistance Today

Sexual harassment is an illegal form of sex discrimination. No one should have to face this issue at work. If you have experienced sexual harassment at work, seek legal assistance today. The Working Solutions Law Firm, located in New York City, can assist you. Contact us today at (646) 430-7930 to schedule a free case evaluation and receive experienced legal counsel.