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Women in Corrections & Corrections Challenges
By Terry Campbell, Professor, Purdue University Global
Published: 07/19/2022

Our monthly topic is women in corrections. I approached this topic with women’s incarceration statistics, women working in corrections, and other issues. I completed some research and wanted to shared some information. The Prison Policy Initiative compiled recent research and provided the following “Key Facts.”
  • Number of women and girls incarcerated in the U.S.: 231,000 +
  • Number of women jailed annually in the U.S.: 2 million +
  • Percent of women in U.S. prisons that are mothers: 58% +
  • Percent of women in U.S. jails that are mothers: 80% +
  • Number of pregnant people who enter jails and prisons each year: 58,000 +
Some interesting statistics and I recommend you review the resource provided.

The end of June, 2022 reflects the following staff gender working in the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

Gender # of Staff % of Staff
Male 25,196 71.6%
Female 9,996 28.4%

You can compare the data with your agency. At the same time, we must consider the following challenges faced by corrections staff on a daily basis:
  • Recruitment
  • Uniform/Non-Uniform Staff
  • Promotion Opportunities
  • Male Inmates and Female Officers
  • Female Inmates and Male Officers
  • Corrections-Prisons-Probation-Parole-Food Services-Treatment-Pay Female and Male Staff-Other
As you can see, there are endless research possibilities. I am interested in comparing gender statistics by positions and work areas. In addition, we know turnover occurs and does our agency have any recruitment strategies? My personal thoughts are we need to be proactive in our recruitment and consider long hours, stress, working conditions, monitoring of staff. These lead to health and security concerns. Some states have included sign on bonuses. Unfortunately, sometimes we are part of the problem and assist in employee burnout. We also have to improve upon our communications skills with staff and the population. This includes effective communication with all staff, uniform and non-uniform. As you know, positive reinforcement goes a long way.

Does your agency have anything in place to deal with high gasoline prices, grocery prices, lack of baby formula, and other stressors? The majority of people are not making high salaries and many are feeling the pressure daily, while trying to work, take care of their family, daily work stress, and other. Then we wonder why tempers are short and increase trigger mechanisms. Also, does your agency have counselling in place to assist staff? All careers are experiencing added stress and there are no immediate effective solutions. There are many corrections professional organizations. Take the time to research and become involved. These organizations members are facing the daily struggles as you. The American Correctional Association conference is August 2022.

Corrections is encountering more frequent challenges involving staff and inmates. There have been many incidents involving female officers (Uniform and non-uniform) becoming involved with male prisoners. This holds true with male officers and female prisoners. Also, we must be aware of all potential relationships. I know all employees attended the academy and ongoing training. Yet, these types of incidents continue to increase. Granted some are not as serious, my other concern is are agencies reporting these types of incidents. There are many sad components. We took the oath and understand our ethical and professional conduct standards. Yet, we continue to see increases in these types of incidents. Security is a must and this affects each of us, uniform and non-uniform staff, and often creates serious security breaches.

There are very few secrets in corrections. Someone pretty much knows on each shift what is going on. When we have knowledge or recognize something serious is going on, there are flags. Are some of our staff aware of these major encounters and failing to let someone know?

Also, we must consider the impact on the system, inmates, staff, potential dangers, and other. Our professional ethics and integrity come into play. Also, there are a variety of reasons why these types of incidents are not reported. Ask yourself, the following question: Have I ever witnessed or heard of an illegal activity and potential security breech, and not reported it? Is there someone at the office you feel comfortable with talking too? Or is there a so-called hotline?

Resources are precious enough along with accountability. Many areas in corrections are facing inflation, including gas prices, food, and other. We still must meet dietary requirements in our prisons and our budgets were not planned with inflation and high gas prices. Meanwhile, we are professionals and dedicated to our work. Hold your head high and come together. There is nothing we cannot overcome.

Stay safe out there.

Terry Campbell is a criminal justice professor at Purdue University Global and has more than 20 years of experience in corrections and policing. He has served in various roles, including prison warden and parole administrator, for the Arkansas Department of Corrections. Terry may be reached at tcampbell@purdueglobal.edu.

Other articles by Campbell


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