When practices embody sexism: The experience of Ontario women correctional officers
University of New Brunswick
Following a Task Force in the public service, Corrections Canada was required to increase its numbers of women employees, including in the Ontario men-only prisoner correctional institutions (Canada, 1990; McMahon, 1999). This influx of women resulted in a surfacing of misogyny evidenced by resistance and maltreatment by co-workers and supervisors (Britton, 2003). When these incidents surfaced, programs for employment equity and prevention of harassment and discrimination were introduced (Agocs, 2002; Ontario Government, 2016), but their effectiveness was never determined. Using the Psycho-Social Ethnography of the Commonplace methodology (P-SEC; Gouliquer & Poulin, 2005), the present study examines the ways in which the hyper-masculine institution of corrections has changed (or not) since 2000. Life-story interviews were conducted with 36 women correctional officers working in men only prisoner institutions. According to the P-SEC approach, I identified “Organisational Moments,” which are ordinary events, policies, and practices, whether formal or informal, that serve to meet the needs of an institution, but complicate the lives of marginalised groups. The analysis also included uncovering the schemata and coping strategies participants developed to overcome these complications. Five Organisational Moments were identified: Casual Status as Precarious Employment, Culture of Corrections, Assignment of Work Partners, Sick Time, and Harassment and Discrimination. The first two Organizational Moments were elaborated as manuscripts, herein presented as chapters four and five. Chapter four focusses on the meaning of being a “casual worker” in the Ontario’s correctional system. Given the lack of a fixed duration, this precarious employment status not only complicates women’s lives financially, but also influence their private lives (e.g., the timing of having children). Chapter five presents an examination of the Culture of Corrections and its effects on women officers. Findings show that through formal and informal practices, misogyny is maintained and reinforced. The discussion reviews the findings and highlights the inefficiency of present practices and policies to improve the experience of women in corrections. It also highlights strengths and weaknesses of the present research and suggests policy recommendations and future research directions.