CeCe McDonald, the transgendered woman charged with murder after defending herself against a transphobic attack, has been sentenced to 41 months in a men’s prison – though she’s expected to be released within two years, with the credit for time already served and the presumption of good behavior.
This is nothing new for CeCe, who’s spent most of the past year in a men’s facility, despite living as and identifying as a woman. She’s spent part of that time in solitary confinement, which jail officials deemed necessary to protect her from other inmates. So while the ruling isn’t particularly surprising, it is disappointing. To add insult to injury, corrections officials are insisting on referring to CeCe using male pronouns when discussing the sentence.
The criminal justice system almost always categorizes inmates by their “birth” sex, regardless of how long they’ve lived as their desired gender, and usually without regard for any medical interventions short of full sex reassignment surgery. This is especially problematic given the high cost of SRS and the fact that many insurance programs don’t cover the cost of surgery or hormone treatments – if the individual has access to insurance coverage at all.
Trans women suffer a high rate of abuse and sexual assault when sentenced to men’s prisons – they’re 13 times more likely to be assaulted than members of the general population. For those who are interested, the documentary Cruel and Unusual explores this issue in detail. (Since this documentary includes personal narratives from women in the criminal justice system, some may find the personal descriptions of abuse disturbing.)
Photo credit: Support CeCe McDonald