The Difficulty of Leaving Work Inside the Prison Walls: An Exploratory Analysis of Female Correctional Officer Identity

Nicole Long Rader, Southern Illinois University - Carbondale

This exploratory study examines the self-identity of female correctional officers. Early literature focused on the resistance of inmates and criminal justice professionals to women entering the field of corrections. More recent studies have identified the female officer's perspective by analyzing job stress and conflict among female correctional officers. Although these concepts give insight into the ways women cope with token positions, understanding why concepts such as job stress and conflict occur must also be considered. This change in perspective requires a new question, "how does being a female correctional officer make female officers feel about themselves and others both in and outside the prison walls?" In answering this question, using a grounded theory approach, a better understanding of the effects of the token position for females working in the often dangerous and patriarchal correctional system is gained. For this study, in-depth interviews are conducted in a midwestern state in which female correctional officers are asked how their occupation choice affects their perceptions of who they are, how they believe others feel about them, and how they feel about others in the workplace and outside the workplace. Emerging themes are presented and implications are discussed.

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Updated 05/20/2006