A transgender woman is suing the Massachusetts Department of Correction for requiring her to serve her sentence in an all-male prison. In the lawsuit, the 52-year-old inmate alleges she was groped and taunted by inmates and correctional officers, reports Jezebel.
According to the Boston Globe, the suit states that the inmate—identified only as Jane Doe—“has been subjected to constant humiliation.” The document describes alleged mistreatment during a strip search. “Male guards forced her to stand, cuffed and naked, for 30 minutes, in front of the open door to her cell, exposing her body to at least a dozen male prisoners who gawked and made crude sexual remarks about her breasts.”
The suit also says male correction officers have referred to her and other trans prisoners as “wannabe women.”
Court papers revealed that “Jane Doe” is requesting the right to be transferred to a women’s prison. If the suit is granted by the court, she’ll be the first transgender woman in the state of Massachusetts to be housed in a women’s prison without undergoing gender reassignment surgery.
Prison officials informed the transgender inmate that she is not eligible for transfer until she has the surgery, despite the fact that she has lived openly as a woman and received hormone therapy for 40 years, the lawsuit says.
“64% of California’s jail population is awaiting trial or sentencing as of December 2016.” Most remain in pretrial custody because they cannot afford bail. Jail Profile Survey, http://www.bscc.ca.gov/
Jennifer L. Levi, director of the Transgender Rights Project at LGBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders, told the Boston Globe:
“In 2017, it is a total shame that this state—with so much broader policy recognizing the humanity of trans people—doesn’t recognize that humanity in our correction system. They’re serving time for underlying offenses, but they’re not supposed to be punished for being transgender. That’s wrong.”
Federal guidelines dictate that trans inmates cannot be placed based solely on their anatomy. According to Jezebel, federal prison officials are mandated to give “serious consideration” to where those inmates would feel the most comfortable. Advocates for transgender inmates say the majority of state prisons have failed to adopt this rule.
Massachusetts is not the only state to have adopted confusing rules for transgender inmates. In 2015, The New York Times told the story of transgender inmate “Passion Star,” who says she was raped and beaten for over a decade during her incarceration at a men’s prison in Texas. Star told Jezebel in 2015 that although policy was important, enforcement also played a critical role in protecting transgender inmates.
“Texas says it has good policies” when it comes to trans inmates, Star said. “But those policies aren’t followed or respected by people in positions of power.”