I believe the Washington State Department of Corrections (WADOC) is disregarding the safety of transgender prisoners. They refuse to recognize that a person’s core identity is who they are when they place them in facilities based on anatomy rather than identification or need. This places them at increased risk of violence, including sexual assault.
Often transgender prisoners are surrounded by hate, discrimination and poorly trained staff. For example, a staff member at Monroe Correctional Complex Twin Rivers Unit (MCC-TRU) tore a kite that I had given him that said I did not feel safe in the unit or with men. His response to me was “I don’t care, you’re a weirdo and need to toughen up. This is your official response, and you can tell your attorney I did it, too.” It was confirmed in grievance #20697170.
Furthermore, another officer verbally abused me by calling me fat after making me lift my shirt in a search for contraband. It was confirmed in grievance #20695245, though despite the confirmation, nothing has been done. These members of staff continue to hold their positions.
I am a transgender woman; I have a long history of being housed with women at many facilities and have had no safety issues reported by staff or other women. The Washington State Department of Corrections refuses to place me in a women’s prison because they claim that they do not want to put other women at risk. By doing so, they are subjecting me to possible assault, harassment and discrimination by the inmates and staff in the men’s facility. This was supposed to be taken into account per the federal Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) standards.
It is not only wrong for women, transgender or not, to be forced to be housed with men, but I think it is a violation of the 8th Amendment regarding cruel and unusual punishment. Transgender women need help and we are not able to rely on the WADOC for this help because they continue to deny and delay transfers and placements to women’s facilities.
Disclaimer: The views in this article are those of the author. The Prison Journalism Project has verified the writer’s identity and basic facts such as the names of institutions mentioned. The work is lightly edited but has not been otherwise fact-checked.