The gendered nature of prison work : empathy, mothering and emotions of female prison officers in a women's prison

Wood, A 2020, 'The gendered nature of prison work : empathy, mothering and emotions of female prison officers in a women's prison' , in: Mothering from the inside : research on motherhood and imprisonment , Emerald Publishing Limited, pp. 145-162.

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Academic literature portrays prison officers in various ways; as insensitive figures lurking in the background (Cohen & Taylor, 1972) as brutes prone to violence (Kauffman, 1988) or more positively as noble people struggling to get the job done as best they can (Thomas, 1972). Traditionally, the role of the prison officer is over shadowed by stereotypical views of male officers being uneducated, brutish and insensitive (Crawley, 2004a). Officers were traditionally recruited to the service from a military background, an environment that is as structured and disciplined as the working conditions in the prison service. Women have worked in the prison service for many years, though historically they were confined to administration roles and were in the main, invisible. After the passing of Peel’s Gaol Act (1823) only female officers could work in women’s prisons, and male governors were replaced with matrons. At the time, it was felt that female demureness, good temper and compassion would rub off on the female prisoners and that reformed prisoners would emulate their behaviour (Zedner, 1991). In England and Wales there is a growing body of literature related to prison officers (Liebling & Price, 2001; Crawley, 2004a; Arnold, 2005; Tait, 2008; Liebling, Price & Shefer, 2011), however, none of this is dedicated to female prison officers. Arguably, this could be due to the fact the profession has traditionally been recognised as a male occupation, and therefore the prison officer literature has been dominated by the thoughts and actions of men. Consequently, we know little of female prison officers’ experiences of working in male-dominated, masculine organisations. In particular, we know very little about female prison officers' perspectives on gender specific issues, such as pregnancy and motherhood while working in these institutions, either their own, or the women prisoners they work with. Drawing on qualitative research in a women’s prison, this chapter will focus on female prison officers as mothers and their roles and relationships with women in prison who are also mothers. The chapter will explore how gendered experiences such as pregnancy, miscarriage, child birth and child-rearing (of both the officers and women prisoners), can create unique emotional burdens for some female officers, impacting their working role, home life and relationships with the women they work with. The chapter will go on to illustrate the ways in which these female officers manage, or mis-manage their emotions whilst presenting as professional in this male dominated workplace.

Item Type: Book Section
Editors: Lockwood, K
Schools: Schools > School of Health and Society > Centre for Applied Research in Health, Welfare and Policy
Publisher: Emerald Publishing Limited
ISBN: 9781789733440 (hardback); 9781789733433 (ebook)
Related URLs:
Depositing User: A Wood
Date Deposited: 02 Nov 2020 14:35
Last Modified: 15 Feb 2022 16:49

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