Nov 16, 2017

Transgender woman being held in all-male prison files suit

View of razor ribbon encirling San Quentin prison. Photo: Kim Kulish / Getty Images

A transgender woman being held at an all-male prison in Massachusetts filed a federal lawsuit Wednesday asking the state to transfer her to a women's facility, per the Boston Globe. The inmate, who has lived as a woman and received hormone therapy for almost 40 years, alleges that she has been routinely harassed by male inmates and lives in fear of being attacked.

Why it matters: If successful, the inmate would become the first transgender woman to be placed in a Massachusetts prison with other women.

More on the lawsuit: The inmate, who is serving a three-to-four year sentence for a nonviolent drug offense, said she was told she couldn't be moved to a woman's prison unless she has genital surgery. She also detailed accounts of being forced to shower in the view of male prisoners, who "crowd into the bathroom excitedly" to watch, and undergo strip searches by male correctional officers "who routinely grope her breasts," according to the suit.The big picture: The suit has also reignited a debate that has plagued the Justice Department for years. The DOJ currently stipulates that the placement of transgender inmates be determined on a case-by-case basis. But most states, including Massachusetts, assign inmates based on their anatomy, not their gender identity.

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