Uncomfortable Spaces – Female Correctional Staff and Sex in the Workplace

Document Type


Publication Date


Conference / Event Title

32nd International Congress on Law and Mental Health - Addressing Sex in Prison: The Progeny of the Prison Rape Elimination Act (2003) in the U.S.

Conference / Event Location

Berlin, Germany

Hosting Organization

International Academy of Law and Mental Health (IALMH)


I have had a long interest in the intersections of gender, crime, and sexuality both in my professional practice as a lawyer and in my scholarly work. Much of that work has addressed the “uncomfortable” topic of staff sexual abuse of inmates, which is widely perceived as a problem of male staff sexually abusing female inmates. An area that remains relatively unmined is the role of female workers who sexually abuse persons in custody. The female corrections workers’ narrative is complicated and characterized by strategic silences and accommodations by many invested actors both internal and external to the criminal justice system – women’s rights groups, correctional agencies, and states. This paper attempts to untangle those complicated and overlapping narratives, identify the discomfort that feminist scholars and other actors (not necessarily separate) have in addressing female workers who sexually abuse adults and youth in custodial settings, discuss relevant research, and suggest a framework for additional research in this area.