Pennsylvania: Two activists arrested while protesting transgender prison policy

Two activists protesting the treatment of transgender inmates at a Jail Oversight Board meeting in Pennsylvania were forcibly removed on Thursday (August 1).

Community organiser Christian Carter and trans advocate and former inmate Ciora Thomas were both then arrested, and only released by sheriff’s deputies after the rest of the group of activists they were with left the courthouse in Allegheny County.

The large group of activists were at the meeting to protest the treatment of trans inmates, who are often put in prison according to the gender they were assigned at birth instead of their gender identity.

“We were publicly commenting. The judge, who’s afraid of accountability, didn’t want to be held accountable,” Thomas said, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Thomas alleges she was assaulted by a guard while in prison in Pennsylvania, and called for prison warden Orlando Harper to be sacked.

“We have to be a unified front, and not let [county executive] Rich Fitzgerald get away with it,” said Thomas at a press conference held ahead of the meeting. She promised Fitzgerald: “Pay attention to it, or we’re going to pay attention to you.”

The Jail Oversight Board chair, Judge David Cashman, allegedly asked the county sheriff to arrest Thomas after she repeatedly interrupted the meeting, asking questions about the jail and its programmes.

Pennsylvania Student Power Network activists involved in protest

Jordan Malloy, an activist with the Pennsylvania Student Power Network, said after the meeting, “Any time we bring more attention to an issue they know they should be doing better on, they’re going to retaliate.”

In a press release issued before the Jail Oversight Board meeting, the activists said they wanted “to hold County Executive, Rich Fitzgerald, and the Board of the Jail accountable for the dangerous and transphobic policies they refuse to change at the jail.”

“We are holding them accountable for the lifetimes of damage those policies enforce upon our entire community, and to call for County Executive Fitzgerald to finally fire Warden Harper for his blatant disregard and contempt for all those in his care,” the press release said.

The sheriff said that Thomas was using “vulgar language” and kept interrupting the speakers at the meeting.

“She was asked to leave, and she wouldn’t leave, so she was forcibly removed, and she was charged,” the sheriff said.

Judge Cashman had previously walked out of a special July 29 meeting about the treatment of trans inmates.

At yesterday’s meeting, he again walked out after the activists were removed, and the meeting did not continue.

Pennsylvania‘s prison population currently stands at 96,000 people.