On February 4, 2012, we wrote about a case filed by a female prison guard in Iowa against prison officials claiming that sexually explicit and violent movies which inmates were allowed to see caused them to sexually harass her. She sued for what is known as “third-party harassment,” where an employer may be liable for the harassment of its employees by non-employees if the employer knew or should have known of the harassment and failed to take appropriate corrective action to stop it.

We asked for comments, and printed one this week. We got a lot more. A particularly incisive comment came from S. Caroline Schroder, a Principal at Sulgrave Strategies LLC., who distinguished a prison from a workplace as we know it, as it relates to harassment of employees.  


With her permission, we quote her as follows:

“Having worked with half-way and other shelters every now and then, it seems important to say that these prison populations are unlike any other, with much higher rates of psychiatric disease and brain abnormalities and damage than the general population, all in confined spaces and not controlled with retaliatory measures, equivalent violence for violence any more.

Considering the prisoners’ response –" subjected her to insults and threats to kill her, and threw urine on her"–, one is definitely reminded that the prisoner population is different and impossible to control to normal non-prison "community standards". 


1)  Several studies have shown that ‘there is a specific brain abnormality associated with criminal psychopathy’: Julian C. Motzkin, Joseph P. Newman, Kent A. Kiehl, Michael Koenigs. Reduced Prefrontal Connectivity in Psychopathy. Journal of Neuroscience, 2011; 31 (48): 17348-17357 DOI: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.4215-11.2011 (Study of prisoners: psychopaths’ decision-making mirrors that of patients with known damage to their ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC).)


2)  S. Gregory, D. ffytche, A. Simmons, V. Kumari, M. Howard, S. Hodgins, N. Blackwood. The Antisocial Brain: Psychopathy Matters: A Structural MRI Investigation of Antisocial Male Violent Offenders. Archives of General Psychiatry, 2012; DOI: 10.1001/archgenpsychiatry.2012.222


3)  And " Substance abuse disorders (SUDs) and other psychiatric disorders are common among prison populations. A dual diagnosis (DD) refers to a co-existing SUD and any Axis I disorder, such as depression, schizophrenia, or social phobia. A new study has not only confirmed DD among prisoners in France, but has also found that it is a major risk factor for suicide. …Even though the research is limited, studies have shown that prisoners with DD have more severe SUD, more psychiatric disorders, more criminal history, and are more likely to be re-incarcerated"

Co-authors of the ACER paper, "Dual Diagnosis: Prevalence, Risk Factors and Relationship With Suicide Risk in a Nationwide Sample of French Prisoners," were: L. Blecha of the Institut national de la santé et de la recherche médicale (INSERM), Paris and the Centre de Recherche et de Traitment des Addictions at the Hôpital Paul Brousse AP-HP, Villejuif; …. The study was funded by the French Ministry of Health and the Department of Justice.



4) Violence rises with testosterone:   "The key to this study is it shows testosterone is linked to dominance in both criminal behavior and behavior in prison," says Dr. James Dabbs, a professor of psychology at Georgia State University and lead researcher on the project. The findings, by Dabbs and Marian Hargrove, are similar to those in studies of male prisoners. This indicates testosterone’s effects on behavior are the same in women as in men, says Dabbs. Testosterone levels were highest among male inmates convicted of violent crimes such as rape, homicide and assault. These men also violated more prison rules."



5)  Social identification, not obedience may drive brutality and other heinous acts:

S. D. Reicher, S. A. Haslam, J. R. Smith. Working Toward the Experimenter: Reconceptualizing Obedience Within the Milgram Paradigm as Identification-Based Followership. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 2012; 7 (4): 315 DOI: 10.1177/1745691612448482."