"Federal and state laws prohibit rape and sexual assault and the policies of jail and prison authorities generally prohibit sexual conduct that is not part of the duties of staff. However, the duties of male guards include conduct that is not prohibited by law but which greatly distresses female inmates, in particular searches for contraband which require guards to touch their bodies, and guards' surveillance of them when they are undressed.
"Under anti-discrimination employment laws in the USA, prisons and jails cannot refuse to employ men to supervise female inmates (or women to supervise male inmates) and in many states there are few restrictions on their duties. A 1997 survey of prisons in 40 states found that on average 41 percent of the correctional officers working with female inmates are men.(9)
"The employment of men to guard women is inconsistent with international standards set out in the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners. Rules 53(2) and 53(3) state that female prisoners should be attended and supervised only by female officers and that male staff, such as doctors and teachers who provide professional services in female facilities, should always be accompanied by female officers. The United Nations Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women has called on all countries to "fully implement the Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners and ensure that protective measures are guaranteed in all situations of custody."(10) Amnesty International agrees: the nature and extent of sexual abuse of female inmates by male staff in jails and prisons in the USA, and the harm that sexual abuse causes, warrants strong and immediate action by authorities to provide the protection to which incarcerated women are entitled under international standards."


Amnesty International, "Not Part of My Sentence: Violations of the Human Rights of Women in Custody" (Washington, DC: Amnesty International, March 1999).