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Trans Youth Confined in Adult Prison Writes About Extensive History of Sexual Abuse

Trans Youth Confined in Adult Prison Writes About Extensive History of Sexual Abuse

Written by Alex Leichenger

A transgender 16-year-old in Connecticut spends 22-23 hours per day in de facto solitary confinement at an adult prison, the youth’s affidavit states.

Under a seldom-used Connecticut statute, a judge ordered the transfer of the teenagerto an adult correctional facility last week despite the absence of any charges against her. The youth, who identifies as female and has her identity concealed, is being housed in the York Correctional Institution for women despite the possibility she would be placed in an all-male facility. Although not in the official solitary confinement wing at York, the teenager is isolated from interaction.

“She’s essentially in an adult jail, but she has to be kept away from the adult population because she’s not an adult offender,” her attorney, Aaron Romano, told ThinkProgress. “And she has to be kept by law out of sight and sound of any other adult.”

The youth’s affidavit details a litany of abuse and neglect in her upbringing while under the Connecticut Department of Children and Families’ custody. The DCF has been her legal guardian since age five because her father was incarcerated and her mother had extensive issues with heroin, crack and alcohol, the affadavit states.

“I feel that DCF has failed to protect me from harm and I am now thrown into prison because they have refused to help me,” the incarcerated teenager writes.

After being sent away from her mother’s house to her grandmother’s residence, the youth writes that a cousin would coerce her into anal sex that caused her to lose control of her bowels. An uncle routinely beat her, and an aunt allegedly told her, “you’re a boy, what the fuck is wrong with you!” when she caught the child, then 11, wearing her lipstick and dress.

The youth allegedly endured instances of sexual abuse at two juvenile therapeutic facilities to which the DCF transferred her at the Eagleton School in Massachusetts and Connecticut Children’s Place. Staff members at both facilities forced the girl into performing oral sex on them, the affadavit states.

She was targeted for even more sexual abuse after returning to the care of her mother at age 14. She became addicted to crack and involved in prostitution after moving to an aunt’s home, which landed her in several juvenile detention facilities.

A recent incident in which the youth retaliated to a guard bear-hugging her from behind was the impetus for her placement in the adult detention center, Romano said. The guard suffered a broken jaw and temporary blindness in one eye, according to a statement from the DCF. But Romano argued that his client interpreted the bear-hug as an attack due to her extensive experience with sexual abuse.

The DCF also claims that the youth had established a pattern of assaulting staff members and fellow inmates at Solnit Psychiatric Center in Middletown, Conn. and Bridgeport (Conn.) Juvenile Detention Center. After the conflict in Massachusetts, the teenager was reassigned to the Connecticut Juvenile Training School, an all-boys facility. But then she moved again to York, the women’s adult facility.

“The transfer of this youth to the Department of Correction is not in any way related to the youth’s gender identity,” the statement reads. “The transfer order was issued in order to protect other youths and staff particularly female staff from a person who has demonstrated over time a pattern of violence that targets females and, most recently, seriously injured a woman.”

But the teenager’s legal team, which includes a state-appointed public defender, James Connolly, and Romano, a federal attorney, is trying to prevent the transfer to an all-male facility. The youth is receiving female hormone treatment that would make her easily distinguishable in a male detention setting. Placement there would not only contradict her gender identity but put her at increased risk of sexual assault.

The attorneys are also challenging the constitutionality of the teenager’s court-ordered transfer to York. Written complaints filed by Romano argue that placing her in an adult prison violates the eighth and fourteenth amendments, plus the Prison Rape Elimination Act and the Juvenile Justice Delinquency Prevention Act.Evidence cited in the passage of PREA shows that youth are five times more likely to be sexually assaulted in adult prisons than juvenile facilities and 36 times more likely to commit suicide.

Romano believes that the DCF has demonstrated gross negligence in caring for the child and made her vulnerable to even more trauma than she has already experienced.

“Where was DCF when she was being raped?” Romano said. “Where was DCF when she wasn’t going to school? And now rather to take responsibility and provide their child the services that their child needs, they basically disowned her by putting her in jail.”

This post originally appeared on ThinkProgress

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Photo credit: Thinkstock

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50 comments

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12:19PM PDT on Jul 16, 2014

That is our law system, victimized the victim: Over and Over again!

9:07PM PDT on Apr 23, 2014

Noted.

11:28AM PDT on Apr 22, 2014

Wow, so sad reading everything she's gone through. I will never understand why Child Services around the United States FAIL so many children. It disgusts me when I read about children in the system and the horrible things they've gone through.

1:51AM PDT on Apr 21, 2014

Noted.

4:44PM PDT on Apr 20, 2014

very, very sad and horrible

3:18PM PDT on Apr 20, 2014

The ignorance and cruelty of some of the posters here is sickening. Hopefully one day a bolt of lightning from your almighty god will strike you with some intelligence and kindness. You preach what you read from your Bible, but fail to practice it.

6:02AM PDT on Apr 20, 2014

Ok, it sounds pretty damning however we are only hearing one side of the story and one persons say so. What is the rest of this person's history? Before we get all up in arms we need access to the entire tale. Something is fishy here beyond the claims of mistreatment.

4:03AM PDT on Apr 20, 2014

Sadly and angrily noted. I hope this young woman gets the protection and help she needs.

2:24AM PDT on Apr 20, 2014

what the hell does sexual orientation have to do with anything in this story...US prisons are barbaric...OZ lives

12:13AM PDT on Apr 20, 2014

I WOULD NOT TRUST MANY PSYCHIATRISTS. SOME TIME AGO I READ AN ARTICLE ABOUT PROBLEMS IN THAT FIELD. THERE IS ALSO A GROUP OUT THERE SOMEWHERE CALLED "STOP ABUSE BY COUNSELORS" I THINK WE NEED MORE IN THIS COUNTRY THAN TO JUST DROP INJURED KIDS INTO PRISON OR INSTITUTIONS TO BE USED AND MAIMED AND RAPED AND TORTURED. WE WHO STAY CLEAR OF THE LAW STILL GET ABUSED, BECAUSE THE LAW WANTS TO DECLARE MARTIAL LAW SO THEY CAN SYSTEMATICALLY PUT US ALL AWAY AND THEY THEN CAN TORTURE US LIKE HAPPENS IN FOREIGN COUNTRIES. BELIEVE ME .... PROFESSIONALS CANNOT BE TRUSTED LIKE IT WAS IN THE OLD DAYS...

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Just another example about how much Republicans really care about our troops!

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