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Chelsea Manning and the realities for transgender and gender non-conforming people in prison, jails and detention centers.

Chelsea Manning and the realities for transgender and gender non-conforming people in prison, jails and detention centers.

The Sylvia Rivera Law Project has been working tirelessly for the past ten years to support transgender people who are incarcerated and experience various forms of state violence and as an organization that supports racial and economic justice we are inspired by those standing up to militarism and state violence.

Transgender people are increasingly in the media, as Chelsea Manning’s recent announcement and Laverne Cox’s character, Sophia, on Orange is the New Black have garnered much attention.

A significant amount of media fascination with transgender people in prison is about accessing surgery and focusing on the criminalized act underlying an individual’s sentence. Not only do transgender people in prison have problems accessing healthcare, but they experience a heightened level of gender policing.  The clothing they wear, their hairstyles and grooming practices, their bodies, mannerisms and identities are scrutinized and controlled by the state.  Any deviance from norms can lead to violence at the hands of corrections officers or other people who are incarcerated.  Legal “protections” are hard to access as there is little accountability on the inside.  If one is brave enough to risk retaliation and file a grievance, they must follow up with that grievance and timely appeal any denials.  It is not until those appeals (usually two) are denied that one can access the court system.  Finding a lawyer or representing one’s self pro se (without a lawyer) is another difficult barrier that one must overcome, as SRLP’s report IT’S WAR IN HERE has documented.

“some of us when assaulted such as myself are at a loss to take action… you are unable to do things needed to be done to file grievances. Once we do the officers destroy the form before it makes the Box. On chance it makes the box an officer can remove it. I have been assaulted myself here at Clinton Correctional by 5 officers. I filed 2 grievances that some how never made it to I.G.R.C. (Internal Grievance Review Committee). These matters need to be looked into. We cannot take legal action unless this step is made first. The people who assaulted me got away with it and I am forced to see them daily and can do nothing.” – SRLP Prison Advisory Committee Member Stephanie Jo

The experiences of incarcerated transgender people make one point very clear: prisons are not supposed to be a place where we survive. The conversation that we want to be having outside the prison walls is one that challenges our notions of justice.


SHARE SRLP’s chart and IT’S WAR IN HERE report about the experiences of people who are incarcerated and work in coalitions with our community members on the inside to ensure that human dignity and identity is respected.

ATTEND our Prisoner Postcard Event Next Wednesday to learn about SRLP’s work inside prisons & send a postcard to community members who have been separated from us by the criminal injustice system.

CONNECT by becoming a pen pal thru Black and Pink or volunteering to make prison visits -SRLP Prison Visit Guide coming soon!