Doing Time

With Orange Is The New Black on Netflix taking on women’s prison issues, and *spoiler+ the episode toward the end of this season where Sofia, the trans character played by trans actress Laverne Cox, gets put in segregation “for her own safety” after being beat up for being trans, I felt like it was a valid issue to bring up. 
Most people have a healthy fear of prison. But for trans women, the idea of prison is an anxiety-inducing nightmare. The idea that you could end up in jail because of a mistake or a bad day is probably the worst part. That a car accident could lead to a manslaughter charge. Or defending yourself when attacked (a distinct possiblity for trans women) could lead to assault charges. Or being charged with sex work or prostitution because you have no other career choices, or other “survival crimes.” Or most recently, because someone called the police because “two men in dresses” were checking into a hotel. In this case, the cops looked for charges to arrest one woman unrelated to the prostitution accusation they were originally called for, and put her into segregation because they don’t know what to do with her. 21% of trans women have been incarcerated at some point. That number is much higher for trans women of color. 
And if you’re a trans woman and you end up in jail somehow, chances are you’ll end up in a men’s if you haven’t had bottom surgery, despite what you’re body may or may not look like, or what your gender marker is. 
So what happens to a woman in a male prison? A woman who may even have breasts? Nothing good. 59% are sexually abused. Hormones will most likely be cut off. As will hair, upon intake. And for many trans girls, including myself, hair is very important.  Abuse by guards and inmates is common, as is solitary confinement, if you’re lucky. Reports of being called “it” and other slurs by guards and other inmates are common from accounts of jailed trans women. 
So basically, if you’re a trans woman, and you end up with a sentence, it’s the equivalent of hell. And not a whole lot seems to be being done about it. Even now, the precedent is to either put trans girls in a gay men’s housing, or segregation. Or as I said, with the general population men. 
Help fight like a grrrl to end this trans prison pipeline, and to get women who do end up in prison safe, humane treatment. 
-Natalie 

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