Trans woman’s torment inside all-male prison: Groping, strip searches and daily transphobia
A transgender woman who has been living as female for 40 years is being forcibly strip-searched by male guards in an all-male prison after being jailed for a non-violent drugs offence.
The anonymous woman, identified in court documents as Jane Doe, is being held at all-male prison MCI-Norfolk in Massachusetts, after being incarcerated on a non-violent, drugs-related charge.
The 53-year-old has spent nearly four decades living as female, having been initially diagnosed with gender dysphoria as a teen.
But the Massachusetts Department of Correction has refused to transfer her to the state women’s prison.
At a hearing this week, prison officers claimed they could not transfer the woman because “there may be problems with other inmates”.
They added that the prisoner had been provide a single cell and is allowed to access hormone treatment.
But her representatives contend: “Jane Doe has suffered extreme psychological harm and is at daily risk for physical and sexual violence and harassment as a woman improperly housed in a men’s prison.
“Ms Doe is regularly subjected to strip searches and groping by male correctional officers at MCI-Norfolk. She is forced to shower in view of male prisoners who harass her.
“Correctional officers and other staff at the facility refuse to address or refer to her using her correct name and female pronouns.”
The legal filing calls for the Department of Correction prison officials to stop “using male correctional officers to conduct strip searches of Jane Doe”, to stop “forcing Jane Doe to shower in the presence of men and with a shower curtain that does not adequately cover her”, to “train all staff on how to appropriately accommodate, treat and communicate with individuals with Gender Dysphoria”, to stop “using male pronouns when speaking to or about Jane Doe”, and to stop “referring to Jane Doe by her former male name”.
Representatives of GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders, who are supporting the prisoner’s case, say she is living in torment inside the male prison.
Jennifer L. Levi, director of the Transgender Rights Project at GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders, told the court: “The harm she is experiencing is real and serious and devastating.”
She added: “Incarcerating a transgender woman in a men’s prison makes no sense. Being in prison is the sentence for her crime. She should not be doubly punished or uniquely subjected to sexual harassment and violence just for being transgender.
“The Department of Correction refuses to acknowledge the reality of who our plaintiff is, a woman, despite the fact that she transitioned nearly 40 years ago.”
Doe was diagnosed with Gender Dysphoria and underwent gender transition as a teenager. She is currently serving a sentence for a non-violent drug offence.