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Women in Parole: Gendered Adaptations of Female Parole Agents in California

NCJ Number
Women & Criminal Justice Volume: 18 Issue: 1/2 Dated: 2006 Pages: 131-150
Connie Ireland; Bruce Berg
Date Published
20 pages
This article examined gender barriers for women in correctional (parole) occupations.
The results suggested that female parole officers experienced gender bias and harassment in similar ways to those experienced in other law enforcement environments, but those who managed to rise to the ranks did so by employing one or the other of three distinct adaptive styles of behavior: overcompensation, reinforcement of female stereotypes, and political correctness. Most women reported widespread forms of subtle harassment including such actions as being denied a preferred schedule out of a supervisor’s apparent spite, and comments about one’s inability to perform expected tasks such as lifting or effecting arrests because of the perceived weaker physiology. The broader implication for this study was that women in parole continued to remain largely marginalized in their occupational roles, as similarly reported in studies on women in policing. Traditional female traits such as communications skill, problem solving, and community relations were not treated as assets by the most successful women in law enforcement or parole. Instead, successful, high-ranking women in parole used traditional male assets of strength; hyper feminine assets of distress, nurture, and sexuality; or extreme avoidance of gender to achieve successes. Future research should explore the extent to which these experiences are shared by female parole agents elsewhere, as well as examine the gendered experiences of women in other non-police law enforcement careers such as probation, correctional institutions, Federal law enforcement, and investigations. The study used semistructured interviews with a sample of 12 female parole agents hired between 1960 and 2003 in California. References


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