Brady Hall is a transgender inmate in Oregon who petitioned the court to transfer from male housing to a female facility. (Transgender people do not identify with the gender with which they were born.) She wanted to move from Two Rivers Correctional Institution —a male facility in Umatilla County, Oregon—to a women’s prison. In her petition, she also sought medical care to receive gender reassignment surgery, according to an article in the Oregonian.
According to attorney Tara Herivel, Hall is a woman in a male prison and that is understood as being extremely dangerous and problematic. “This is an area where, as we’re expanding our ideas as a culture of what gender identity is, it’s also expanding in the legal arena,” Herivel said. “I think it is a very important first step.”
In May, Circuit Judge J. Burdette Pratt in Umatilla County ruled in favor of Hall’s petition and ordered that she should be housed in either a single cell or in a cell with another transgender inmate. The judge agreed that Hall had proved that the Corrections Department had showcased “deliberate indifference” to her safety by housing her with male inmates, according to the Oregonian article.
The judge also said that correctional officials “must do everything within their ability” to stop inmates and correctional officers from verbally or sexually harassing Hall. She was also approved for gender reassignment surgery and is awaiting the procedure.
Hall, however, did not get everything she requested. The judge denied her request to transfer to Coffee Creek Correctional Facility, the only female prison in Oregon. This was partly because the judge felt that she would be safe within her new living arrangement and partly because of her criminal conviction. In 2007, she was charged with sex crimes, which included sexual abuse of girls. Hall can still request a transfer at a later date, according to the article.
Nevertheless, Hall’s case may pave the way for transgender inmates around the country to be granted safer housing conditions. Transgender prisoners are often forced to live with people of the opposite gender.
“When I first got here I had a couple of inmates that didn’t want me to live with me because I’m transgender,” said S. Gustafson, a transgender inmate at San Quentin State Prison. “It wasn’t until I met my current cellmate that things got a little easier.”
“I feel that the guards here at SQ treat me with respect,” said Gustafson. “The only hang-up was that it took me several weeks to get my female clothing.” She also said that she believes that transgender people should be housed alone or with other transgender individuals.
“I feel the transgender policy can be a little bit better, as far as cell living,” said E. Herrara, who prefers the name Sage, adding that she thought that transgender inmates in a male prison should be provided shower curtains for privacy. (San Quentin recently added curtains.)
Herrara said she feels safe at San Quentin.
“I don’t feel it would be any easier at a female prison, personally,” she said. “For LGBTQ women, it’s the same way.”
Inmates housed in CDCR may be asked standard questions by their correctional counselors, such as how they identify (i.e. straight, gay, transgender, etc.).
These questions result from Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) policy, enacted to ensure inmates’ housing and safety concerns are met. When asked these questions by counselors, inmates are encouraged to be open and honest.