CeCe McDonald and the Safety Paradox of Transgender Prison Inmates

From XO Jane:  http://www.xojane.com/issues/safety-paradox-transgender-inmates-prison

CeCe McDonald is currently living with the general population of a men’s prison in Minnesota. The question remains of whether she can ever really be safe as long as she’s incarcerated.

Jun 12, 2012

The case of CeCe McDonald — the transgender woman I wrote about last month, who plead guilty to manslaughter following an incident that many believe was fully justified self-defense — continues to shed light on current legal issues affecting the lives of trans folks. This weekend Melissa Harris-Perry took the opportunity on her MSNBC show to bring more attention to the issue of CeCe’s confinement, and discussed the subject with Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality.

CeCe’s story is already a collection of injustices, but her plea deal was barely the beginning of what is sure to be an uphill climb for the duration of her incarcertion. US prisons are divided by binary gender, and these institutions are only required to place inmates by their sex at birth — that is, they are free to ignore the gender identity of an inmate and to privilege her genitalia regardless of how the inmate herself feels about it.

As a result, CeCe has spent her time since her sentencing last week in a men’s prison facility in St. Cloud, MN, spending most of it in “administrative segregation,” known more colloquially as solitary confinement, ostensibly for her own protection. Acoording to Keisling, McDonald has more recently joined the general men’s population.

My kneejerk reaction to this is stark horror: A California study found that transgender women prisoners housed in all-male facilities are 13 times more likely to be sexually assaulted. But as in most things in life, the reality is far more complicated. According to Katie Burgess of the Trans Youth Support Network, quoted in Colorlines:

Continue reading at:  http://www.xojane.com/issues/safety-paradox-transgender-inmates-prison

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