To mark the end of Women’s History Month, Attorney General Loretta Lynch issued remarks at the White House Women and the Criminal Justice System Convening Wednesday, March 30. Her remarks stand out for mentioning and specifically addressing transgender women caught inside the Criminal Justice System. Yet naming transgender women without inviting them to be present and fully a part of the work being done is not inclusive leadership.
Meaningful inclusion of trans women in discussions of the criminal system would take into account the numerous calls transgender women have made to abolish prisons and jails due to the racist and transphobic practices within them (such as Sylvia Rivera in her 1973 speech “Y’all Better Quiet Down”). Transgender and gender non-conforming people have published numerous books, held conferences, and rallied with their demands for altering the current criminal justice system. Without trans women actively participating in discussions about how the criminal justice system polices their lives and actions, these remarks ring hollow.
From our direct service and national organizing work SRLP knows that the vast majority of transgender people are not given the dignity of choice as to what housing units are safest for them. Almost all transgender women are in men’s prisons, transgender men in women’s prisons, and gender non-conforming people housed according to the sex assigned to them at birth. Just Detention International has reported that 59% of transgender women housed in men’s prisons in California survive sexual violence and statistics on transgender women and sexual violence nationally are still being tallied by the Department of Justice. The current administration has deported 2.3 million people, a 23% increase from administrations before, and women experiencing mass incarceration has increased at double the rate for men (this statistic does not include transgender people). Any claims that the Department of Justice is making on restoring dignity and humanity to women involved in the criminal justice system ring hollow with these high statistics.