Did Discrimination Land a Trans Teenager in Adult Jail?
A teenager who has never been charged with an adult crime has been moved to an adult prison. What’s worse, there are fears for her safety because she may yet be housed with male inmates even though she is a trans woman.
The unnamed teenager, who is 16 and will hereafter be referred to as Jane Doe, was under the care of the Connecticut Department of Children and Families. According to reports, Doe was put into care after being seriously physically abused by her previous guardians. She has been housed at several juvenile facilities throughout the past few years but, the DCF say, staff are unable to care for her because the teenager is increasingly prone to violent outbursts.
The DCF contend Doe “violently attacked” a DCF staff member which resulted in the DCF official sustaining a broken jaw and temporary blindness. This, they say, is not the only incident. Normally, the DCF would not transfer a minor to an adult facility unless they had been charged with felony battery. Doe has never been charged however and, at the time of writing, no pending charges have been filed. However, there is a provision under Connecticut law that allows for juveniles to be transferred to adult facilities if they are considered a danger to themselves or others. DCF contends that Doe presents as just that.
Doe and those acting on her behalf contend the attack did not happen the way the DCF is claiming, and they have made allegations that the DCF may wish to transfer Doe simply because she is trans. The DCF denies these allegations, though has acknowledged that staff haven’t always behaved properly toward Doe (one staff member was fired after an altercation with Doe).
Regardless, the DCF applied to have Doe transferred to an adult facility despite the fact that the DCF recently had a new facility created to handle young women with particular behavioral issues.
On Tuesday, April 8, a judge granted the DCF request and Doe is now being held at a York female adult facility — something that in recent times is virtually unheard of. However, the administration had also applied to move Doe to Manson Youth Institution in Cheshire, a facility for male offenders. If that were to happen, Doe would be put into solitary confinement for at least 18 months until her case could be re-evaluated. This is because Connecticut doesn’t recognize gender identity considerations and instead houses prisoners by biological sex. Obviously, Doe’s trans identity would also make Doe a target for other prisoners, and this speaks to the wider issue of how trans prisoners face serious safety concerns. She would therefore have to be put in solitary confinement, again even though there are no charges against her and no record of behavior warranting solitary confinement.
After fierce protest and petitioning by groups like the ACLU, it now appears that Doe will not be transferred to a male facility in the near future. Commissioner James Dzurenda has said in a letter that the DCF and the Department of Corrections have for the time being agreed that the York facility will be appropriate for now, but campaigners remain concerned that Doe is being denied her civil rights and that she could be transferred in the future.
Sandra Staub, legal director of the ACLU of Connecticut, is quoted as saying that this is clearly unjust treatment:
“DCF asked for and the court approved a plan to treat this girl as if she were an adult and a criminal, although she is neither,” Staub said.
The agency pursued this action “simply because she is a transgendered [sic] girl,” Staub said. “No other girl in DCF custody has been endangered in this way. The result, if not the intent, is clearly discriminatory.”
The ACLU and the girl’s lawyers are continuing to fight to have Doe returned to a juvenile facility, and will continue to oppose attempts at housing her in a male facility.
As touched on above, studies show that transgender inmates face higher levels of emotional, physical and sexual violence, as well as discrimination from prison officials themselves.
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