Report Reveals Transgender Experiences in Prison and Calls for Policy Change

Transgender Pride Flag
PC: sarahmirk
Via Wikimedia Commons

By Yana Singhal

NEW YORK, NY – The Vera Institute of Justice and the Black and Pink National released a report recently with details of a survey looking at present transgender people and their experience in the prison system spanning many states, claiming the results were shocking.

The survey itself spanned from ”280 transgender people in state prisons across 31 states,” and according to the Vera Institute of Justice and the Black and Pink National, the “responses provide critical insights into their daily experiences and policy recommendations for government leaders, prison officials, and those who work with incarcerated people.”

The report does highlight that prison does come with its fair share of harm generally, but those who are transgender and behind bars face far more “prejudice, violence, and a lack of necessary services mean that transgender people face acute and disproportionate harm behind bars.”

The Vera Institute also calls in a 2022 national survey that some heavier statistics such as how “roughly one in three LGBTQ+ people had been through some form of incarceration in the last five years” and despite that “trans people’s experience of imprisonment has long been obscured by stigma, the frequent use of solitary confinement, and the fundamentally opaque nature of prisons.”

The new survey showed almost “90 percent of respondents had spent time in solitary confinement” and that around 20 percent were sent to solitary confinement as a means for separation from people who threaten harm.

It was also noted that around 53 percent of the participants had  “reported experiencing a nonconsensual sexual encounter during their current sentence” and 31 percent stated that they faced “harassment, threats, and attacks by other incarcerated people as a top reason they felt unsafe behind bars.”

However, the study found, discrimination didn’t just end at fellow inmates as “28 percent reported verbal discrimination by staff and three percent reported physical harm by staff.”

The report also showed insights to the latter where around “72 percent indicated prison staff did not try to help them succeed” in some shape or form.

In the prison system themselves, there are many obstacles, Vera Institute notes, that must be reformed especially because nearly 53 percent of people who needed medication to help transition behind bars were not able to receive them in due time because of “blanket bans, diagnosis requirements, or discrimination by medical or prison staff.”

The survey also highlighted there were no prisons meant for them as there were either the women’s prison or men’s prison but no option in the middle for transgender people.

While many “respondents currently in prisons designated for men said they would like to transfer to a prison designated for women—about a third would not.”

The survey noted how important it was to have a safe inclusive 3rd party place as “nearly four out of five respondents (78 percent) would prefer to live in a unit designated for transgender people.”

The overall article calls the reformation of many things throughout the prison system, including “policy and practice on housing, health care, gender-affirming practices, social support, implementation of the Prison Rape Elimination Act, and staff training and accountability.”

About The Author

The Vanguard Court Watch operates in Yolo, Sacramento and Sacramento Counties with a mission to monitor and report on court cases. Anyone interested in interning at the Courthouse or volunteering to monitor cases should contact the Vanguard at info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org - please email info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org if you find inaccuracies in this report.

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