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Race and Gender Relations Among Prison Workers

NCJ Number
Crime and Delinquency Volume: 31 Issue: 1 Dated: (January 1985) Pages: 147-159
B A Owen
Date Published
13 pages
This article describes changes in the traditional correctional guard This article describes changes in the traditional correctional guard cultures, which have resulted from States' Affirmative Action requirements.
Affirmative Action hiring practices have introduced race and sex as significant variables in the relationships and the interests of the guard culture. Further, the racial segregation that characterizes prison social life also affects interactions among the workers and with the prisoners, and racial conflicts and competition occur among the staff as they do among the prisoners. Many white officers report a 'reverse action,' whereby minorities seem to be promoted at a greater rate than white officers; black officers report a more traditional form of racial discrimination. These racial issues tend to divide the staff and to create coalitions; for example, the staff may unite against the administration when it instigates actions perceived as unfair and discriminatory. While race is an issue among male workers, women have the additional complication of gender. With few exceptions, male officers interviewed declared that 'women do not belong here;' further, most male workers see no need to disguise this attitude toward women. Female respondents report a long period of being 'tested,' more by the officers than by the prisoners. These conflicts between workers of different races and sex impede worker solidarity; additionally, by supporting the stereotypes of minority and female workers, prison administrations discourage worker unity. Ten references are included.