Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Trans Prisoners Human Rights Need To Be Respected

One of the things the Kosilek case has thrust back into the spotlight in addition to the issues of SRS being medically necessary is the treatment of transgender prisoners.

Whether it's Jovanie Saldana, Dee Farmer, Lyralisa Stevens or countless others, one of the common threads is the treatment of trans feminine prisoners hasn't been an issue that has gotten the attention from trans human rights activists or the media it should probably because others have higher priorities like stopping anti-trans violence and passing ENDA.  

The 'they deserve what they get' hate on prisoners mentality from the general public and even people in the trans community probably plays into the negativity and lack of focus on this issue.  But I'll guarantee that the people who express those attitudes would find their attitudes rapidly changing if they were the persons that find themselves for whatever reason being on the receiving end of the justice system.     

Let's be frank.   Nobody deserves to be sexually harassed, raped, isolated or verbally abused either while serving time or for whatever reason brings them to the Iron Bar Motel or ICE detention.  

We have had far too many reports of trans women being disrespected, misgendered or verbally abused, placed in protective custody isolation for extended periods of time or deliberately thrown into lockups with cismale prisoners, putting them at risk for physical or sexual assault and possibly contracting HIV.  

The 8th Amendment to the US Constitution bars cruel and unusual punishment against prisoners and reminds us in the 'free world' along with the 2005 Amnesty International Stonewalled report chronicling police abuses against the TBLG community reminds us that prisoners have constitutional rights that shouldn't be ignored just because they are serving time .  

If you're thinking bull feces as I write this, I need to point out there are many other reasons people get sent to jail besides the commission of a crime.  Transpeople who have been arrested for human rights protests, immigration detention by ICE or for general po-po harassment issues have also found themselves being mistreated as Autumn Sandeen discussed after her 2010 DADT protest arrest 

As this 2011 documentary Transgression discusses, the same thing is happening to trans detainees in ICE immigration detention facilities 

So what's the solution?   In Los Angeles the repeated incidences of violence against trans arrestees resulted in the LAPD opening a 24 bed facility in the women's jail specifically to house trans detainees back in May.

Trans people are the canaries in the civil rights coal mine.   How we are treated and our civil rights are respected by the justice system is an indicator of how well the rights of cis people will be respected and protected . 

It is just as important to have human rights progress inside our nation's jails and prisons for transgender people just as it is outside of them.  Organizations such as the California based Transgender Gender Variant and Intersex Justice Project (TGIJP), Lambda Legal, Immigration Equality and countless others are working with local, state and federal officials to ensure that incarcerated transpeople, whether they are in lockup for 24 hours or life without parole don't face unnecessary cruel and unusual punishment while doing so. .

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