Those gossipy female prison guards

Give me a moment to pick my jaw up off the floor.

Okay, ready now. The State of New York’s Department of Correctional Services has, as the result of a lawsuit, stopped distributing a handbook to its female employees that made it very, very clear that the powers that be weren’t very happy about women working their turf:

The state Department of Correctional Services is no longer distributing or using a handbook that told its female officers to not gossip at work, be too bossy at home or swear to “be one of the boys.”

That handbook, which had been given to officers who graduated from the training academy for more than 20 years, was featured recently in an article in The Post-Standard.

Women were encouraged to play tennis or eat ice cream on their days off to relieve stress and to not dress for work as if they were going to a nightclub or beach.

Department officials had been reviewing policies, as well as the handbook, in recent months. In light of publicity about the handbook, “Whatever speed it was being done at before is being sped up,” said Erik Kriss, public information director for the department.

“We decided to update or possibly discontinue it, but in the meantime decided the best thing to do is not use it for the moment,” Kriss said of the handbook.

No such handbook exists for male officers, who outnumber female officers by about 10 to 1.

The book had sections on catcalls and wolf whistles, discouraged women from being flirtatious on the job and encouraged them to seek out other women’s advice in child-rearing.

The best thing to do is not to use it “for the moment”?

How about, it was a stupid thing to distribute in the first place!

The department claims that it received only one complaint about the handbook, and that only recently (a claim disputed by the plaintiff in a sex-discrimination suit, who submitted the handbook as evidence of disparate treatment). Corrections departments are not the most forward-thinking of places, but you’d think that someone, somehow, in 20 years, might have cottoned to the idea that telling your female employees — and only your female employees — that they’re untrustworthy, gossipy airheads who can’t be trusted to put on a standard uniform and need to be told to eat ice cream and ask other women for child-rearing advice just might be a wee bit sexist.


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18 comments for “Those gossipy female prison guards

  1. Josh
    October 22, 2007 at 12:44 pm

    I don’t think the Department should revise its handbook. They should just replace it with a free subscription to Cosmo.

  2. Dr. Confused
    October 22, 2007 at 1:31 pm

    I imagine no one bothered to complain about it because it was just too funny. Eat ice cream? Don’t wear beach clothes to work? Wow, none of this would have occurred to me on my own!

  3. October 22, 2007 at 4:49 pm

    I imagine you become a bit desensitized to sexism when you work/train in an environment where men outnumber you ten to one. For me, though, a handbook giving me advice about my private life (child-rearing, weekends) that was only distributed to women would be the tipping point. I’m shocked the first woman who got this handbook didn’t start ripping into her boss about it.

  4. October 22, 2007 at 4:55 pm

    Ice cream sounds nice too me…

  5. Dennis
    October 22, 2007 at 5:31 pm

    But, what about TEH MENZ?! Who will tell me to eat ice cream?!

  6. kate
    October 22, 2007 at 6:21 pm

    The handbook might be adopted by one of the small towns in my locality, Hooksett, NH whose administrator fired four women last year, two of which were receptionists and the one a building inspector and another I believe worked in the assessor’s office.

    Apparently their boss got wind of their ‘gossiping’ about his spending an unusual amount of time with a new hire. So he summarily fired them, on the spot. Only two women have been given their jobs back (under threat of suit I understand) the others are filing suit as they well should.

    They have been dubbed the “Hooksett Four”. Although no one has mentioned sexism, the underlying note of such is inescapable.

  7. October 22, 2007 at 8:11 pm

    Wow, I would have freaked the fuck out if someone handed that to me.

    It does make me wonder what other kind of incredibly misogynist treatment these women were subjected to that no one complained. Or if the department is just lying about there not being any complaints.

  8. October 22, 2007 at 8:36 pm

    I just started laughing at this. It’s like something out of an old “King of the Hill” episode.

  9. zombieprincess
    October 22, 2007 at 9:18 pm

    wow, i’m glad the department of correction that i work for isn’t like that. i have to say, so far, being a correctional officer is the best job i’ve had. granted, i’ve only done three weeks of on the job training and two weeks of peace officer standards training (i graduate in two weeks) but nonetheless it’s been awesome.

  10. Bitter Scribe
    October 22, 2007 at 9:52 pm

    zombieprincess, are you serious? I mean, I hope it works out for you, but it seems like that would be the worst job in the world: having to deal with a bunch of assholes who are all piled on top of each other because they can’t obey society’s rules. I read Ted Conover’s “Newjack” (he worked for a year as a Sing Sing guard) and I just shuddered.

    I don’t mean to discourage you in any way, but I can’t help being curious: What do you like about the job so much?

  11. Dennis
    October 23, 2007 at 1:31 am


    Maybe you wouldn’t even have noticed. If you opened it at all, you probably would have read the first half page which says “Hey, you’re going to be surrounded by rapists*, and you should be careful not to be alone around them, or turn your back on them.”, and then you’d throw it in the filing cabinet with the other 9000 things you get when you start a new job, forgotten forever.

    I bet/hope/have to believe that the first woman to complain was also the first woman who decided to read the damn thing.

    * Welcome to the inside, same as the outside…

  12. RacyT
    October 23, 2007 at 2:59 am

    I’m shocked the first woman who got this handbook didn’t start ripping into her boss about it.

    I’m highly skeptical that this woman was the first to complain. I think she was probably just the first to complain while there was some kind of media presence going on that might bring this to light in any other community besides the one it’s been forced on.

  13. zombieprincess
    October 23, 2007 at 8:42 pm

    bitter scribe, there are so many reasons i love my job. i love the staff that i work with. they are great people and i trust them with my life, literally. i love everything that i’m learning, from arrest techniques to offender programming. i love that there are so many opportunities for change within the department. i can be a correctional officer, or promote up the chain of command. i could go into probation and parole. i could go to work for administration. every day is different and every year can be different, too.

    also, while the offenders are indeed not the greatest people, they are still people. in the idaho department of correction, one of the primary beliefs is that people can change. we try to give them the opportunity and tools to do so while they are incarcerated. that’s important, because most of them will parole out eventually. i prefer to have the chance to help them change before they become my neighbor, or my waiter, or my auto mechanic. :)

  14. October 24, 2007 at 7:47 am

    I actually work for “The State”, and have had dealings with their personnel office (who are quite pleasant, actually!). My coworker shared this with one of the professionals in their personnel office (who is a female) when she spotted the article, and they had a good laugh about it. As did we at my office, as most of the people on my team (save me and above-mentioned coworker) are men.

  15. NYS Female C.O.
    October 24, 2007 at 8:12 pm

    ha ha ha!!!! this is so hilarious! i actually had to go back and find my DOCS binder to see if i had that handbook! sure enough, i found it! all i remember was covering the “security issues”, “your relationship with inmates” lessons that are in the handbook when i went through the academy!

    i actually read most of the handbook to find these “offensive” phrases. it doesn’t seem that serious – maybe because i really don’t care what it says. i don’t know of any female that actually sat down and read the whole manual! nobody really cares about that crap. there are other directives and s.o.p.’s that are far more important to read and have a knowledge of than this!

    as long as us female c.o.’s do our job, are not screwing or blowing inmates and respond promptly and participate in emergency situations and are not all smiling in inmates faces and telling them our business, don’t give them anything more or less, just what they’re entitled to; etc. – we’re alright!

    other than that – i can’t speak for all prisons in nys – but the men’s maximum security prison i work at, us females have no problems with the male staff. a great deal of respect is quickly gained if you just do your job!

    i’m kind of hungry. anyone has ice-cream?!…


  16. zuzu
    October 24, 2007 at 8:36 pm

    Ooh! Do you have a scanner?

  17. NYS Female C.O.
    October 25, 2007 at 3:42 am

    if anyone wants a paragraph out of the handbook, just ask and i’ll post. i don’t have a scanner. but i’ll throw in some paragraphs directly from the handbook with out any adjustments. i’ll tell it like it is.

    Forward page:
    “It should be noted that the material is not intended to be viewed as strict rules, but intended to provide a point of reference.”

    “Although the contents are designed primarily for new female staff, this handbook could be a valuable tool for new male staff members as well.”

    I have a reason for adding the above sentences and my views of why this handbook was produced. I’m not saying that I agree with everything in this handbook. But I just wanted to add this part in just to emphasize that the “rules” in the handbook are NOT enforced and it seems a little bit exaggerated when it’s being broadcasted, especially when it comes down to the “ice-cream” and “playing tennis” parts.

    And as I’m submitting parts of the articles, per request, please keep in mind that mostly throughout the handbook the term “staff” is used and not “female Corrections Officer”. These rules were designed to apply to ALL females working in a male prison setting! We do have civilian and medical staff employed by the state that work in our prisons as well and they DO NOT wear uniforms!

    I’m expressing my views and understanding of this handbook – not because I agree with it, but because of my experiences and what I’ve visualized with my own eyes with other Officers, Medical/Civilian Staff AND Inmates.

  18. NYS Female C.O.
    October 25, 2007 at 3:56 am

    Clothing and Security:
    “In general, the following dress guidelines are suggested for both male and female staff who have inmate conatct and/or custody responsibilities:

    1. Wear shoes which are safe, comfortable and fucntional for your job duties.
    2. Clothing should fit loosely enough to permit free body movement in the event of physical altercation.
    3. If clothing or accessories are appropriate attire for a nightclub or the beach, you should question their appropriateness for the institutional work place.
    4. Avoid wearing necklaces and chains that cannot be easily broken if grabbed by an inmate.
    5. Avoid long, dangling pierced earrings which may pose danger to you if grabbed by an inmate.
    6. Whenever you report to the facility (even when not on duty), you should be properly attired when entering the “gate area”.
    In short, staff should wear attire that reflects professionalism and good sense.”

    If you’re a female C.O., you know that we’re not permitted to wear chains or necklaces unless with a religious medalion on it – or not permitted to expose it. We also know that we’re definitely not permitted to wear earrings. These 2 rules applies more to civilian and medical staff.

    Now, the biggie here is #3. If you read carefully, it says “male and female staff who have inmate contact and/or custody responsibilities:”

    Female Corrections Officers (does not specify) are not the only ones who are in inmate contact. We have civilians and medical staff as well in our correctional facilities that work for the state. They are not dressed in uniforms like us. They come in casual civilian clothes. But not all of them dress professional! Some want to come to a male prison wearing spandex leggings with a thong and a small top. Yes, it has happened people! Or have the cleavage exposed with deep down v-cut top, sometimes wearing very revealing clothing and many similar situations alike! For those of you that can’t comprehend prison settings – let me be very forward here:

    Most of these prisoners have not had sexual relationships with women in God knows how long. Attire, as mentioned, causes extreme sexual urges to these backed up inmates. A lot of these prisoners are rapists and have mental problems. If given the right opportunity – a female dressed like this IS in danger! Not matter how friendly he appears! Keep in mind. Prisoners are given jobs in jails that require them to work with civilians, medical and security staff, eg. clerical work, pet grooming, maintenance work, hospital porter, etc.

    There are females C.O.s that come to work in civilian clothes and change into uniforms at the lockers. Not all female C.O.s dress professional either, entering the gate area/entrance of a facility. Some come dressed just like I mentioned before. And yes, whether you know it or not – SOME INMATES CAN ACTUALLY SEE YOU AND RECOGNIZE YOU FROM CERTAIN GATED AREAS OF THE JAIL! Whether it’s from a high setting cell, or from a yard, or inmates with outside clearance to do lawns and ground details (of course with a C.O. supervising them). C.O. or not – this spells danger!

    For those interested refer to the passed female C.O. Donna Payant.

    Or find similar, more detailed articles about her! She was killed by a rapist. Not because of what she wore – just simply clarifying that even in uniform they get urges. Wear something more revealing – it’s even worse!

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