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Women in Corrections
By Terry Campbell, Professor, Purdue University Global
Published: 04/11/2016

Femaleofficer I would like to recognize Dr. Mary Livers for over 30 years in correctional service. She has worked in three state systems and is currently the Deputy Secretary of the Office of Juvenile Justice, in Louisiana. She was appointed to this position in 2008 and recently reappointed in February 2016. Dr. Livers is a cabinet-level agency head reporting directly to the Governor. Dr. Livers is the “President of the American Correctional Association (ACA), has served as Treasurer, served a term on its Board of Governors and has been a member of numerous committees. She is a charter member of the Association of Women Executives in Corrections (AWEC). One of significant accomplishments was her collaboration with other professionals on the creation of a pilot training model for women in corrections that was adopted and used by the National Institute for Corrections. She is a true professional and one to model regardless of one’s gender.

For more information on her appointment click here.

I also need to include recognition for the Honorable Helen G. Corrothers, retired. She has numerous accomplishments and I have included a few for review. Ms. Corrothers brings to the corrections field a military background. She has served as warden and has been appointed to the U.S. Parole Commission as well as the U.S. Sentencing Commission. She has served as a Past President of the American Corrections Association and has achieved many more accomplishments. Over the years she has been recognized by receiving various awards for her numerous contributions to corrections and by having served on many boards.

I had the pleasure of being colleagues with Dr. Livers and Ms. Corrothers, during their employment with the Arkansas Department of Corrections.

I suggest you take time to bookmark the following site and review when convenient. MTC: Women Professionals in Corrections: A Growing Asset.

The number of women in the corrections fields continues to increase, yet additional women are needed to fill vacant and/or soon to be vacant positions. “The number of women in the workforce is projected to grow by 10.0 percent compared to 9.1 percent for men through 2014; with women comprising 47 percent of the workforce. With a 13% workforce increase in the number of additional supervisory staff projected for corrections between 2006 and 2016, women represent a growing, educated human resource asset.”

The next article provides the following summary:

Employees in correctional facilities under state or federal authority, by gender and occupational category
  • Male 67% and Female 33%
Occupational Category
  • Approximately 66% of all employees were correctional officers, line staff, or supervisors who worked in direct contact with inmates.
The data clearly reflects women are making progress in corrections. Yet they still have a long way to go. Upon entering the field, they must gain the trust, recognition, support, and respect of officers, staff, and inmates. Now we all are aware of potential problems that occur when females work in male institutions. Guess what. The same and/or similar issues occur when males work in female institutions. Perhaps the question should be are we providing the same level of training, support, and mentoring for all staff or for just one gender. The majority of supervisors and administrators are male, yet women are beginning to make further impact in these positions. There are more women than males and even though the acceptance and opportunity for women advancement has increased, some systems still have room for improvements.

In 1973, The National Advisory Commission on Criminal Justice Standards and Goals established standards for correctional agencies recruitment and hiring of females in corrections. This consisted of the following:
  • “Change in correctional agency policies to eliminate discrimination against women in correctional work;
  • Provision for lateral entry to allow immediate placement of women in administrative positions;
  • Development of better criteria for selections of staff for correctional work, removing obstacles to employment; and
  • Assumption by the personnel system of aggressive leadership in giving women a full role in corrections.”
Even with this in place and practice, corrections overall was slow to implement. Legal cases were filed and won that improved the hiring of women in corrections at all levels. Yet as I mentioned previously, emphasis needs to be placed on recruitment, hiring, and promotion opportunities for women. If you need something to do, check with your agency and find out what the personnel practices are for hiring, recruiting, and promotions. Look at your own agencies and note the areas where women work. Are there any female supervisors and administrators?

Corrections’ budgets are precious resources and continue to dwindle. Personally I want the most for my dollar. Corrections spends a tremendous amount of money yearly to hire, train, and promote officers. Yet many agencies continue to face high-turnover rates. Are we looking at this and finding solutions to help curb this turnover trend? Do we know what contributes to this? We spend this money and invest in our officers, yet what do we have in place to assist our officers and staff? Research over the years has reflected the following:
  • Who are our mentors and what process is in place to assign someone as a mentor?
  • Our mentors must be role models and not just placed in this position.
  • Do we offer training programs for women in corrections?
  • Do you know if your agency has a plan in place to increase the number of females in the agency and what efforts and programs are in place to ‘retain, train, and mentor’ women officers and staff?
  • Research data continues to show we must have ‘training, good supervision, and mentoring’ in place for women to succeed.
  • Are we resting on our laurels, and making no efforts to correct some of these areas?
  • Each employee and administrator has a responsibility to ensure corrections provide the opportunity for women to succeed.
  • We need to take the next step and show improvements in the hiring, recruitment, and advancement of women in corrections.
I would be remiss if I did not mention there are many women that set the tone and direction for women to succeed in corrections. I only identified two that I had personal knowledge of, and know firsthand. Women in corrections provide a vital role and are an asset. Keep up the good work, strive to succeed, and stay safe.

Terry Campbell is a criminal justice professor at Kaplan University, School of Public Safety 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@kaplan.edu.

Other articles by Campbell


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