Correction appended

Female employees at the Central New Mexico Correctional Facility claim in a lawsuit that male co-workers urinate and masturbate in front of them, scream at them, call them obscene names, proposition them and physically threaten them on a regular basis.

The complaint filed this week in state District Court in Santa Fe alleges female guards at the prison are more afraid of their male counterparts than they are of the inmates.

The 104-page complaint, filed on behalf of three current and two former female employees of the medium-security prison near Los Lunas, depicts a hellish working environment for women serving as corrections officers at the prison, which has a capacity of 330 inmates.

“Progress has eluded the Central New Mexico Correctional Facility,” the complaint states. “Within its walls, female corrections officers are considered lesser than those who are male, subject to unthinkable and constant sexually based violence and harassment.”

According to the complaint, women working at the facility have been subjected to male co-workers exposing themselves, urinating on the floor near where the women are working, masturbating in front of them, throwing rocks at them, trying to kiss them, groping them and threatening them.

Some supervisors have passively witnessed the abuses without doing anything to stop the behavior, even in the face of formal complaints, the lawsuit says, adding that supervisors also have participated in the abuse.

When they complain, the suit says, the plaintiffs are told that “boys will be boys” and that “you’re in a man’s world so you need to accept the way men are.”

Written complaints have resulted in little or no consequences for the alleged perpetrators, the lawsuit states, but often have led to retaliation against the women.

The complaint, filed by Albuquerque attorneys Laura S. Ives and Leon Howard, names the state Department of Corrections, Corrections Secretary Gregg Marcantel, Deputy Secretary Joe W. Booker, Director of Adult Prisons Jerry Roar and about a dozen current and former corrections employees as defendants.

A message seeking comment from a Corrections Department spokeswoman was not returned Friday.

The lawsuit describes in detail incidents that include language unfit for publication. It includes accounts of male employees screaming obscenities at female co-workers, grabbing the women’s breasts and genitals, exposing their own genitals, throwing furniture and undermining the female employees’ authority with inmates.

The women also have been subjected to dangerous pranks — such as being locked in a room with an inmate or having the lights turned off when they are alone with unsecured inmates — the lawsuit claims.

One woman alleges a male co-worker had asked for pictures of her nipples and genitals and then tried repeatedly to kiss her and threatened to lie to others about the incident. As retaliation for her refusal, she says, the man tried to force her to do his work.

The woman alleges she was regularly subjected to sexually explicit conversations among her male counterparts and that the men had watched pornography in the workplace in front of her.

The sergeant on duty participated in the conversation “instead of reprimanding subordinate officers for unprofessional conduct,” according to the complaint.

The complaint alleges an image of a naked woman lying on her back with her legs open was etched into a window at the facility by male employees and remained there for two years.

It also says the women in question, most of whom worked at the prison for at least five years, were stymied professionally, passed over for promotions while less-qualified men moved upwards with ease.

Some of the men named in the complaint still work at the facility and have been promoted to positions of authority, the lawsuit says.

The complaint seeks actual damages, attorney’s fees and “punitive damages in an amount a jury deems sufficient to deter Defendants and other male officers … from acting in gross disregard of, or indifference to the rights and safety of Plaintiffs and similarly situated female officers.”

Contact Phaedra Haywood at 986-3068 or phaywood@sfnewmexican.com.

Correction: This story has been amended to reflect the following correction. A previous version of the story incorrectly reported that the Central New Mexico Correctional Facility is near Las Cruces. The prison is near Los Lunas.