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Transgender woman who keeps trying to escape from male prison is refused a transfer to a female facility

Emma Powys Maurice January 21, 2020
Transgender prison

Transgender inmate Jamie Boulachanis says she endures regular sexual harassment while detained in a men's prison (Pexels)

A transgender woman who has made multiple escape attempts from an “unbearable” male prison is fighting for the right to be transferred to a female facility.

Jamie Boulachanis, 46, was convicted in 2016 of murdering 32-year-old Robert Tanguay two decades earlier. In 2018, a psychiatrist diagnosed her with gender dysphoria and she began receiving hormone therapy.

She is now enduring routine sexual harassment from her fellow inmates, regular strip-searches by male officers, and forced to shower and use toilets without a door. When she filed complaints about the harassment, she said one officer told her to “get a boyfriend” inside for protection.

“It’s humiliating and stressful,” Boulachanis told a Quebec Superior Court judge on Monday. “Individually, they may seem like small issues. But taken together, every day, it’s miserable.”

Boulachanis has filed an application for habeas corpus – a legal recourse that allows a person to challenge the legality of their incarceration.

The court heard that both male prisons she has been incarcerated in have adapted “individualised” protocols for her that take her gender into account, but Boulachanis claims they haven’t been enforced by correctional service officers.

While testifying, she spoke of being told to lift her shirt in front of dozens of men during searches, of being groped by other inmates and having men expose themselves to her. This is sadly a common experience for transgender inmates, as UK government figures reveal that approximately 90 per cent are not in the correct facility for their gender.

Prison authorities say “Houdini-like” transgender woman is too risky to transfer.

Boulachanis has a history of “Houdini-like” escape attempts, which Correctional Service Canada says makes her too great a risk to be transferred to a lower-security women’s prison.

While detained in 2013, Boulachanis managed to bring small metal saws onto a bus transferring detainees in Montreal. She used them to cut through restraints and jumped out of an emergency exit, managing to win about 30 seconds of freedom before she was tackled by a guard.

A guard who was on the bus later testified at trial that he and his colleagues never managed to figure out all her methods.

Two years later, guards found she had managed to cut through bars on her cell’s window, and had created a 36-foot homemade rope made out of bedsheets.

“[Boulachanis] requires maximum supervision where human and material resources are available to manage her risk, both inside the establishment and during outings,” said assistant deputy commissioner Cynthia Racicot.

“Institutions for women do not have such resources and do not have the infrastructure to manage this risk.”

Correctional Service Canada maintains that Boulachanis would be a danger to society if she succeeded in escaping. The trial continues this week.

 

More: Canada, Jamie Boulachanis, transgender prisoners

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