Watching You, Watching Me

68 Pages Posted: 14 May 2007 Last revised: 4 Mar 2008

See all articles by Brenda V. Smith

Brenda V. Smith

American University - Washington College of Law; American University - NIC/WCL Project on Addressing Prison Rape


This article examines one of the most often called for remedies for sexual abuse of female inmates - ending cross-gender supervision of female inmates by male correctional staff. Part I of the article describes the context of sexual misconduct against prisoners in the United States, highlighting important cases and discourse. Part II examines important differences in the legal decisions that address claims challenging cross-gender supervision raised by or concerning male and female inmates. Part III addresses the disconnect between the jurisprudence involving cross-gender supervision of men and women positing a "dignity and shame" approach by the court, and examines the explicit and implicit assumptions about race and gender that account for the difference in treatment of male and female prisoners. Part IV concludes with a recommendation that the U.S. establish a zone of privacy for both male and female inmates that exists regardless of the inmate's gender. It further concludes that while same-sex supervision of male and female inmates is an imperfect solution, it remains the best response presently available. The article also provides recommendations for implementing same-sex supervision consistent with Title VII, thereby recognizing both the importance of equal employment opportunities and the right to privacy and basic human dignity of both male and female inmates.

Keywords: prisons, rape, violence gender, Title VII, international law

JEL Classification: K14, K31, K42, K49, K30, K19, K10, Z00, J71, I39

Suggested Citation

Smith, Brenda V., Watching You, Watching Me. Yale Journal of Law & Feminism, Vol. 15, 2003; American University, WCL Research Paper No. 2008-32. Available at SSRN:

Brenda V. Smith (Contact Author)

American University - Washington College of Law ( email )

4300 Nebraska Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20016
United States

American University - NIC/WCL Project on Addressing Prison Rape ( email )

4801 Massachusetts Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20011
United States

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