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Women in Corrections
By Terry Campbell, Professor, Purdue University Global
Published: 09/09/2021

Femaleofficer2009apr06 Our topic this month is ‘Women in Corrections.’ Those working in corrections have the opportunity to work with female officers and supervisors. I want to address the growing dilemma of females incarcerated, female corrections professionals, demographics of females working in corrections, and others.

During my corrections career, I had the opportunity to work with many corrections personnel, both males and females. However, for this paper, I will focus on females in corrections. When I first began my corrections career, female officers worked the towers, front gate, and control booth. They were allowed only minimal contact with the male prison population. Through the years, corrections finally recognized how valuable the female officers were to the corrections field. Of course, we also have to consider the role of the federal courts in many of the change decisions. Even with the beginning of change, many agencies were reluctant to provide female officers the opportunity to advance in male facilities. Of course, this would take time to transition for the male corrections population and male staff. There were many challenges, and some agencies could make the transition easier than other agencies. During this period, we realized there was very little research available addressing females in the corrections workplace.

One would think the changes would be welcomed, this was always not so. Again, we had issues with trust, safety, various dilemmas, supervisory support reluctance, and others. Fortunately, we made it through the so-called growing pains and recognized the return of professionalism. Females, through support, training, and the opportunity to advance, have proven themselves. The road has not been easy, and some obstacles still occur. I do think in some agencies, females still have to prove themselves.

There will always be allegations, and this is not limited to gender; if this is proven, we must utilize the employee conduct standards for all staff. Also, determine the cause and if this was a training issue or other. We have to maintain fairness and integrity for all staff.

While conducting some research on this topic, I wanted to share some sites and information. When you have time, review these sites for additional information. Due to paper length requirements, I could not provide other sites.

The Bureau of Prisons staff gender tables.

# Male Staff: 26,984
% Male Staff: 71.3%
# Female Staff: 11,092
% Female Staff: 28.7%

I selected the following sites to become familiar with some websites you may or may not know.
BOP Gender (August 7, 2021)

Correctional Officer Demographics and Statistics

Correctional Officers and Jailers-Bureau of Labor Statistics

We can also consider the following organizations: OJJDP, American Correctional Association, Female Professional Organizations, Probation and Parole, Jails, and others.

I strongly recognize you familiarize yourself with the National Institute of Corrections web page.

I selected the following site to provide some insight into women incarcerated.

“The rising rates of women in our justice systems have seen exponential growth over the past two decades, and women, once a population deemed too small to address, have turned into a challenge for correctional administrators.”

National Institute of Corrections (NIC)
Justice Involved Women’s Initiative Training Programs Models of Gender-Informed Practices.
Additional resources and information to consider.

All of the websites are informative and provide current information related to corrections.

I see some research has been completed and is ongoing on Corrections and COVID. The study contains results covering a variety of areas, including staff and gender.

Due to the many corrections areas, I would like to compare our many fields related to staff, demographics, and gender. There are many potential research opportunities. Results from these types of research can provide current information to administrators for recruitment possibilities. Along with this, we would need to research recruiting female and male applicant efforts by corrections and determine what works, lessons learned, and best practices. Regardless of gender, many agencies are experiencing staff shortages. Our corrections field must take more of a collaborative approach to assisting each other. Also, we cannot lose sight of progressive trends in recruitment and promotional opportunities. Daily challenges and dilemmas are part of corrections. Let’s be proactive, utilize our staff to the best of their capabilities, and continue with a push for professionalism and ethics. Research statistics have provided us with a tremendous amount of data. However, this data is only helpful if used.

Best regards, 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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