The Thinking 
Housewife
 

Women Guarding Men

February 14, 2011

 

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From "Prison Women"

[NOTE: This post contains sexually explicit material and is not appropriate for children or teenagers.]

JESSE POWELL writes:

The National Geographic Channel recently featured two shows, Prison Women, that examine the subect of female prison guards in male prisons. The settings of the programs, which will be repeated February 23, were the Miami-Dade County Jail in Florida and Dallas County Jail in Texas. 

Women prison guards in male prisons is not a fringe phenomenon. In Miami-Dade County, according to Prison Women, 52 percent of the prison guards were female.  Almost half the guards were female in Dallas County.

Prison culture has been dramatically altered by the presence of women guards, who bring new possibilities for sexual encounters into prison life. Though this was not a point made by the producers of the series, women guards also deprive men who have generally grown up in single mother homes of the male authority figures they need.

Women guards who were interviewed said they took the jobs because they were well-paid, with good benefits and flexible schedules. In the settings shown, most of the inmates were black and most of the female prison guards were black. Both groups were in about the same age range, 20 to 40 years old. Some of the women presented themselves with a tough, no-nonsense demeanor and others were more “soft,” tough when pushed but otherwise friendly, sometimes showing nervousness that the inmates noticed. With newly hired-female prison guards who show hesitation, a male prison guard may step up and act as the heavy to confront an inmate behaving boisterously, flirtatiously or out-of-control with the new female hire.

In watching these programs, I couldn’t help but reflect that most of the men in prison grew up in single mother homes where the mother was by default the authority figure. When they became men, their relationships with women were fragmented and shallow, without commitment or extended responsibility. How could they achieve maturity when they had no fathers themselves and when examples of how to behave as men were nearly absent from their neighborhoods? They violated the law, the code of ethics that men lay down, and they ended up in prison where the matriarchy, the dominating female prison guard who will punish you when you violate the rules, is imposed upon these men yet again. 

In the old model of prison, which involves male inmates with male guards, I can imagine that the male guards could sometimes serve as positive authority figures and examples of manhood for the prisoners to emulate. Male guards could communicate their values and worldview to the inmates and might help them to be better prepared for life on the outside after they are released back into the community. When male prisoners are forced to interact with women as subordinates, when already their experience of positive male role models has been almost entirely absent throughout their lives and their relationships with women have been fragmentary, it seems like a potential opportunity for these men to develop a healthy masculinity is squandered.  

In the television shows, the claim that women get along better with the male inmates because they have better communication skills was often made. One woman said the male prison guards were needed for the muscle and the women prison guards were needed for the brains. It should be noted, often there are so many female prison guards that no male prison guard is in proximity;  an older, more experienced female prison guard with a tough, no-nonsense demeanor in that case supervises the younger, less experienced female prison guards. 

The idea that separation from women sexually is part of the punishment has broken down. Much was mentioned about the sexual dynamic that the female prison guards introduced. A common offense directed at the women prison guards is called “gunning” where the inmate will drop his pants and start masturbating as the woman walks by doing her cell checks. Some floors where the inmates have already committed infractions against prison rules previously are particularly notorious for “gunning” happening on a regular basis. “Gunning” or public indecency is punishable by 15 to 30 days in segregation; solitary confinement where the prisoner has access to very few privileges. Often a rash of “gunning” episodes will be followed by thorough checks of the prisoners’ cells looking for pornography. Possession of pornography is a violation of prison rules in its own right and can bring additional punishment to the inmates. 

Aside from these overt sexual displays it is normal for the male inmates to watch the female prison guards very carefully. The inmates will notice and make remarks if the woman changes what color nail polish she uses or wears her clothes differently or changes her appearance in any way. The personality and moods of the women are carefully noticed and monitored. Often times, the inmates will be friendly and chatty, asking the woman how her day is going, what she plans on doing after work. If the woman reveals any personal information, the inmates will try to look her up on the Internet to find more information about her. If a woman plays along with the male inmate’s friendly overtures, he may get excited, hoping she will be game for a sexual interaction on the side. A male inmate reported, “One time my discussion with her got really friendly, and it went in a sexual direction, so much so that I grabbed her. She responded, ‘ya, uh hum, that was good, I’ll come back later and give you a little more if I can get some free time.’ You just have to accept what they give you.” The inmate went on to describe how the women who are depressed are often the best ones. A woman who is going through troubles in her marriage or is divorced or experiencing a death in the family is most likely to be game, most likely to respond favorably to sexual advances. On top of all this the women do pat down searches of the men as part of the job, after putting their gloves on first, so no man will be without a woman’s touch whether he makes sexual advances towards the female guards or not.

                                                                                                   — Comments —

Laura writes:

I wonder how many of these women guards are single mothers. Surely some of them are producing the inmates of the future at home while they guard the inmates of the present at work.


A reader writes:

I have operated group-homes, psychiatric centers, and detention centers for adolescent males for twenty years. While it’s not quite the same as prison, it’s a close “cousin,” if you will. We might get a single male applicant out of twenty applications. And after screening for criminal background (you would be appalled at the rate of criminality and wage garnishments we see) and appropriate education (yes, this too is regulated) this ratio grows to 1/50. While we do our best to maintain a high proportion of male staff, it’s very difficult to achieve.

Laura writes:

So then it is wrong to conclude that the increase in women guards is directly caused by feminist social engineering. It is related to the increase in social pathologies that produce crime. There aren’t enough men to take these jobs. 

The reader continues:

Jesse wrote: “In the television shows, the claim that women get along better with the male inmates because they have better communication skills was often made. One woman said the male prison guards were needed for the muscle and the women prison guards were needed for the brains. It should be noted, often there are so many female prison guards that no male prison guard is in proximity; an older, more experienced female prison guard with a tough, no-nonsense demeanor in that case supervises the younger, less experienced female prison guards.” 

We in fact see less violence to the female staff but I personally don’t think it has anything to do with communication but rather is due to the fact that the patients (inmates) relate better to women as this has been their experience. Moreover, many of them view the women staff as potential sex partners and/or someone they can manipulate and subsequently they are not often overtly aggressive.

Laura writes:

Then do you think the presence of female guards is a positive development, or merely an unavoidable one?

The reader writes:

I’d say it’s unavoidable and undesirable in high proportions. Its also unpleasant for all to witness the female staff struggle with the stress of such work.

We find that mixing of male and female staff can be disastrous and often separate the teams by sex and then have a male supervisor. Patients will often be abusive to the female staff in order to elicit strong reactions from the male staff: a classic juvenile power struggle. This is upsetting to many of the patients as well which leads to more aggression and instability.

We don’t see the same intensity of mistreatment when it’s all female staff. Perhaps this is the same inherent response witnessed in co-ed combat units.

 

 

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