When transgenders face prison life
With the increase of LGBT rights, the world is realizing the need to better protect the rights of LGBTs. In particular, the cases of three UK transgender women– Tara Hudson, Vicky Thomson And Joanne Latham– have drawn attention to the plight of transgenders in prison.
Transgenders in UK prisons
Both Thomson and Latham had committed suicide while in an all-male prison. Though Hudson was lucky enough to be transferred to an all-female prison, she said her 12-weeks in the all-male prison led her to experience being strip-searched, forced to flash her breasts, and lived in fear of rape.
“When I walked into the prison, it was like a cat with five legs had entered the building. They were like animals in a zoo– shouting and banging on the doors,” she said.
The two suicides has prompted the UK government to review their policies on transgender prisoners.
“The review will develop recommendations for revised guidelines which cover the future shape of prison and probation services for transgender prisoners and offenders in the community,” said Caroline Dinenage, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice, Minister for Women, Equalities and Family Justice.
Meanwhile, Charlie Kiss, wrote in The Guardian that, “Trans people are especially vulnerable in the overcrowded and under-resourced UK prison system, quite often simply due to being different physically. The least that can be done is to ensure that they are sent to the appropriate prison in the first place.”
Kiss further pointed out that “some trans women in the UK have been forced to de-transition in order to avoid abuse.”
Transgenders in US prisons
Though these news reports have centered in the UK, transgenders in the US also face similar dangers when they are placed in prison.
As the New York Times put it last November: “In the United States, transgender people are routinely subjected to harassment, but few are as powerless as those in prison.”
“As more have become vocal about their safety and their rights, prison systems that segregate inmates along conventional gender lines are facing mounting challenges. While a few have changed housing policies, the vast majority have not,” the NYT editorial said.
In a report by the National Transgender Equality, it noted: “Nearly one in six transgender people (16 percent)– including 21 percent of transgender women– have been incarcerated at some point in their lives– far higher than the rate for the general population. Among Black transgender people, nearly half (47 percent) have been incarcerated at some point—mirroring the stark racial disparities in all incarceration.”
The report warned that: “Trans people are also at high risk for abuse in prisons, jails, and juvenile detention.”
The report also made recommendations, which include “using a multidisciplinary committee, with input from outside experts, to place transgender prisoners in facilities consistent with their gender identity whenever appropriate, regardless of anatomy or birth sex, and should publicly report data on how transgender people are housed.”
The report, which detailed how to end abuse in prison, also said: “The Federal Bureau of Prisons should establish a standardized process for transgender prisoners to make an election whether to be subject to physical searches by male or female officers.”