Friday, September 3, 2010

Jails Need to Accommodate Trans Prisoners

It has been well documented that globally trans prisoners face high rates of violence and abuse, from not only fellow prisoners, but prison officials.  In some cases, the solution has been to place trans inmates in solitary confinement for years, which amounts to torture.  Prison rights groups often ignore the special plight of trans prisoners, thus making them even more vulnerable.  Prison confinement often rises to the level of cruel and unusual punishment for trans prisoners.

With this in mind, an Australian judge decided not to incarcerate a trans woman, after hir reckless driving killed hir girlfriend, because she felt that the prison system was not set up to handle bodies like hirs.
Judge Marilyn Harbison told [name redacted] she would not lock him up because she was not satisfied prison authorities could protect him from bullying from other inmates.

She said [name redacted], 21, wanted to be a woman and assumed the characteristics of people in a fantasy world and because of his unusual personality she would wholly suspend a three-year jail term.

"The prison environment would weigh very much more heavily on a person of your condition,'' the judge said.
[name redacted] was at least 30km/h over the 50km speed limit when he skidded on a dirt road at Seville East and hit a tree.

Melissa Neylon, 18, who was in the front seat, was thrown clear from the car with the seatbelt round her neck and the car landed on top of her.
What this person did was clearly illegal and yet they are not serving time, because of the way the system is organized.  It is very rare that a trans person will get any form of special treatment and that point must be emphasized; however, if the law is really to mean anything, it has to apply to everyone equally.  If we are going to insist on imprisoning people, we need to assure that this process is humane and applies equally to everyone.

Not imprisoning hir does nothing for the trans people already caught in a system that refuses to  realize that not all bodies are the same, and that all people deserve respect.    While I am relatively sure that ze is happy not to be imprisoned, there is no accountability in this situation. This is not a victory for trans rights; ze is still responsible for someone's death. 

Cissexism is absolutely systemic. Even the article about this story derisively described hir body as having "man boobs" and continually misgendered hir, when ze has made it clear that ze wished to undergo a sex transition.  How hard would it have been to use gender neutral pronouns?  Even though this news organization clearly has access to the AP style book, shaming this person was clearly their goal.   Treating trans people as equals means respecting them and creating the social accommodations to allow them to participate as equals in every fashion. It will be a victory when cissexism is eradicated and we finally learn gender has no bearing on the humanity of another.  Whether it is the media, or the social justice system we need to learn to treat people as we expect to be treated.
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