Women Call TX Criminal Justice Department ‘Boys’ Club’

After Texas settles a charge of a corrections officer raping a woman he supervised, female employees complain about sexual harassment. The agency’s highest-ranking woman disagrees, saying “any days of a male-dominated culture are long gone.”

More than a decade after a sexual assault scandal rocked the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, the agency is still a “boys’ club” plagued by sexual harassment and a culture that makes it difficult for women to get promoted, more than a dozen current and former employees tell the Houston Chronicle. Three of the 10 highest-paid employees in the prison system and about 25 percent of wardens are women, but female officers also must contend with harassment from coworkers, masturbating inmates and fear of retaliation if they complain, according to lawsuits, state records and interviews. “You think it’s the inmates you have to worry about,” said one former employee, “but it’s actually the people you work with.”

Some women told of enduring lewd comments or inappropriate contact from co-workers. One female employee said she and other women guards picked jobs working around inmates to avoid having contact with the men who supervised them. The latest allegations come after the state reached a $250,000 settlement last year in a lawsuit accusing a male lieutenant of raping an officer he supervised. Officials insist that sort of workplace environment is a thing of the past. “Any days of a male-dominated culture are long gone,” said Lorie Davis, the highest-ranking woman in the agency. “We have a lot of women that move up through the ranks.” Just 38 percent of 22,000 corrections officers —are women. Higher ranks are even more male-dominated. About 27 percent of sergeants, 25 percent of captains, 26 percent of lieutenants, and just 21 percent of majors and assistant wardens are women. “You just have a culture of indifference, the good-old-boy system as they call it,” said Lance Lowry, a corrections officer and former union president. “And the numbers clearly reflect that. If 38 percent of the officers are female, 38 percent of the sergeants should be, too.”

from https://thecrimereport.org