Trans woman kept in men’s prison for a year says she was harassed and beaten

CHICAGO, IL - FEBRUARY 25: Demonstrators protest for transgender rights on February 25, 2017 in Chicago, Illinois. The demonstrators were angry with President Donald Trumps recent decision to reverse the Obama-era policy requiring public schools to allow transgender students to use the bathroom that corresponds with their gender identity. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

A trans woman has said that the state of New Jersey knowingly kept her in men’s prisons for more than a year, where she says she was sexually harassed and beaten.

The woman is identified in reports as Sonia Doe, a pseudonym, and she began serving her sentence in March 2018 for “offences stemming from addiction”. Since then she has been moved between four different men’s facilities.

The American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey has announced that she will be moved to the state’s only women’s prison “no later than September 15”, but her lawsuit against the department of corrections is ongoing.

According to her statement and complaint documents obtained by NJ Advance Media, Doe had lived publicly as a women since 2003, had been receiving hormone treatment for more than a decade, and had changed her legal name and gender, which were displayed on her drivers license.

In the documents, she described the alleged abuse and harassment in detail. In one facility, she said: “I was strip searched whenever I left the unit. After searching me, the officers made me finish dressing on the tier, topless with my breasts exposed, where every male prisoner on the tier and male corrections officers could see me.

“Male prisoners often made lewd remarks to me as I walked by, wrote me notes that were sexually harassing, and/or visibly masturbated while staring at me. It made me fear for my safety.”

Protesters holding up pro trans signs

Protesters holding up pro trans signs

The trans prisoner said officers filmed her while she was bleeding.

She said her requests to be transferred to a women’s prison were ignored, and on one occasion she was taken to the Sergeant’s office and beaten by staff after a correctional officer groped her breasts.

In her statement she said: “The larger of the two officers and the one who had groped my breasts, punched me first, in the right eye.

“All three people, the lieutenant and two officers, became involved in beating me… I remembered being in a fetal position on the floor, with my knees raised and my hands together blocking my face, being beaten by all three of them.”

She said they then sprayed her in the face with mace and hit her with a baton. Afterwards, she said: “I was pushed up against the wall and held over a trashcan and ordered to bleed into the trash. As my face was leaking blood into the trash, an officer went to grab a handheld video camera. They began recording me.”

Doe said that her medication was often not delivered to her often enough, at the right times or in the right doses. This caused her to start growing facial hair which exacerbated her gender dysphoria and caused her to become depressed and anxious.

Doe says she still has nightmares about her treatment, and that it has caused her to have thoughts of self-harm.

According to NJ Advance Media, New Jersey has a formal process for the treatment of trans prisoners, and a special committee is supposed to regularly evaluate requests from trans or intersex prisoners to move them and to keep them safe.

New York City is currently being sued for the death of transgender inmate Layleen Polanco in Rikers jail, allegedly caused by the “deliberate indifference” of corrections workers.