There’s more than one surprising fact in this story, but the most surprising one was not the behavior of the cop killer and the prison guard he impregnated through consensual sex, it’s the fact that female guards are standard in male prisons.
Perhaps you already knew this, and perhaps I should have known it already, too—because, now that I think of it, it shouldn’t have been a surprise for a number of reasons both PC and economic. But I must say I had no idea this was the case, and it’s an extremely disturbing situation (as is the presence of male guards in female prisons).
And yet it’s been going on for decades (see this article, for example). Aside from the obvious PC reasons for it, the less-obvious economic ones are that there are a lot more male prisoners than female, and it’s hard to find enough male guards willing to do the job of guarding them, so females are hired.
With obvious, predictable consequences. Some of it is due to coercion and fear, some to psychological instability, some to proximity and opportunism, some to sociopathy—and maybe somewhere, somehow, some tiny amount of it may be due to what the participants, at least, refer to as love.
The guard offenders are more likely to be women than men—perhaps because there are more female guards in male prisons than male guards in female prisons (mostly because of the aforementioned large disparity between the sexes in the prison population itself):
A Justice Department study shows that cases like Murphy’s are common: Female staff are more often implicated than their male counterparts in prison sexual misconduct. While many cases could be considered consensual, incarceration experts and female prison guards say the problem is much more complicated.
In some cases, the women reported that they couldn’t say no to the inmate out of fear, or were afraid to go to a co-worker out of shame at what had happened. One small mistake often led to something else.
Experts say there is a culture of silence in the prisons that makes it difficult for female guards to come forward with problems before they spin out of control.
Documents detailing the state investigation into Murphy’s liaisons show he persuaded at least five Montana female prison employees to break the rules over several years. He even convinced his therapist to have sex with him, and was able to arrange one-on-one meetings with her even though prison officials knew of his past history with female workers…
Martin Horn, now a professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, said female workers who have sex with inmates are often treated less harshly by officials than male worker who do the same.
“As long as we have a double standard we are going to see these kind of behaviors,” Horn said. “It is a very slippery slope we go down if we say we are not going to hold female officers to the same standard.”
A 2007 U.S. Department of Justice study analyzing the prevalence of sexual assault in state and federal prisons found that 58 percent of staff perpetrators of sexual misconduct were female.
It seems to me that our culture has gone utterly mad. Why would anyone think this was an okay idea?
Yes, yes, I know the answer. As I said before, some of it is PC gender politics, and some of it economics. Somehow, though, in the olden days (in other words, when I was a kid), I believe there were enough male prison guards to take care of the male population. Why is that no longer true? Is it that the prison population has grown so very large relative to the population as a whole? Is it that it has become more out-of-control and difficult in terms of behavior, and the job of guard therefore more onerous? Is the pay proportionately worse than it used to be? Are there more people who consider the job beneath them?
Here’s an article about the training of prison guards that sheds at least a little light on some of these questions. Although it’s almost a decade old, it may still be apropos:
The ACA is trying to address the problem. It has developed its own Internet-based curriculum that leads to certification for corrections officers. But the program, which is less than a year old, so far has only reached about 800 people out of a workforce of more than 750,000. And it’s unclear how much of a dent it can make in a system where state and local authorities operate their own training academies and zealously defend their control over training. This monopoly might not be a bad thing, but state and local governments in many cases have scrimped on training–especially during recent years of fiscal stress. In Maryland, where officers don’t even have to meet a physical fitness requirement, “just the cost of giving each corrections officer a physical would be more than you could get out of the legislature,” says William Sondervan, a former corrections commissioner for Maryland who now serves as director for professional development at ACA.
Such penny-pinching may be self defeating if it undercuts corrections officers’ prospects of success in their jobs. In fact, turnover has become a major problem in the corrections business, averaging over 16 percent a year nationwide and ranging as high as 41 percent (in Louisiana), according to a survey by Workforce Associates Inc. In addition, 72 percent of correctional administrators report having difficulty recruiting officers and 64 percent say they have problems retaining those they have hired. With baby boom retirements looming, some 490,000 corrections positions will become available in this decade, while the pool of 25- to 44-year-olds from which corrections officers are drawn will shrink by more than 4 million people.
Part of the recruitment and retention problems stem from inadequate compensation…
There’s much, much more.
There doesn’t seem to be a problem of inadequate compensation in the state of California, though. Au contraire.