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Transitioning from female to male offenders

In some ways, male inmates are easier to handle than their female counterparts


I didn’t think my career would come full circle and I would once again be working with male inmates, but it’s happened. My recent promotion to Moore Haven Correctional Facility brought me back to my early jail days in the 1980’s when I worked with male offenders. I think I am adapting well but must say it’s been a change.

I have been focused on female offenders for quite a while and didn’t realize the challenges the transition would bring — for me, not the inmates.

Wardrobe check
For the first time, I have taken a check on my attire. I have always dressed business casual but now I am a bit self-conscious about the little details of my wardrobe. I am also much more critical of how our staff are wearing uniforms and how civilian staff dress around inmates.

Quieter inmates
I immediately noticed how much quieter a male facility is. Women seemed to talk more and spoke all at the same time, which increased the noise level. The men were quietly watching television, using the ear phones they’d purchased through the commissary, so their dorms were much calmer. They actually asked me for permission to speak, something female offenders didn’t even think to do!

No hair problems
Secondly, there are no crazy hairdos. All the men here keep their hair trimmed close to their head per policy. I was constantly reminding female inmates to keep their hair within policy and to take contraband hair ties out. Female inmates would try and dye their hair with kool-aid and make their own hair extensions. It was a constant battle keeping them in compliance. The men go to barber shop weekly for their buzz cuts and I haven’t seen anyone out of compliance.

More compliant
The males also follow direction the first time. Women always wanted to know “why”. Once we explained why, they would ask why we didn’t apply the rule fairly, or they would say we were picking on them. The male inmates just seem to do what we ask. Of course you’ll have those who want to show out but so far, the male offenders been respectful and compliant with my requests.

To me the male inmates so far seem easier to manage. Of course, I don’t want to take anything for granted. I suspect, just like all inmates, we’ll have our good and our bad. My staff — who were hesitant to transfer from female inmates to male inmates — have adapted well too. I told them that in the end, regardless of gender, all inmates’ first names are “inmate” and they all need to be treated firmly, fairly and consistently.

Laura E. Bedard began her work in corrections as a jail administrator in 1984. During her tenure as administrative faculty for the College of Criminology at Florida State University, she ran a study-abroad program in the Czech Republic lecturing on crime topics in an emerging democracy. In 2005, she became the first female Deputy Secretary of the Florida Department of Corrections. There she was responsible for 27,000 state employees and over 200,000 offenders in the third largest correctional system in the country. Dr. Bedard has published and lectured on a number of corrections-related topics including women in prison, mental health issues and correctional leadership. Dr. Bedard is currently serving as the Chief of Corrections for the Seminole County Sheriff’s Office in Sanford, Florida.

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