On any single day about 4,000 people are held in solitary confinement in New York State prisons. This is a fact that Marci, a member of the Sylvia Rivera Law Project’s Movement Building Team, knows all too well. Having survived solitary confinement herself, Marci is now joining a group of advocates on April 12 to lobby New York law makers to pass the HALT Solitary Confinement Bill.
Marci told SRLP staff that she is going to Albany with the Campaign for Alternatives to Isolated Confinement (CAIC) because “at this point it’s not about me. It’s about the families who are surviving this kind of punishment. We’re killing people with this behavior.”
Marci mentioned that she served time in solitary after defending herself from sexual violence. “I had to ask: do I let them get away with this or defend myself and they send me to the box? Well, the State punished me yet another time.” Pointing to herself during the interview Marci said, “This is mine. This body is mine. I don’t consent to people touching it by becoming a prisoner. No one has the right to touch me without my consent.”
For transgender women, who are housed almost exclusively in men’s prisons, Marci said that “a year upstate can turn into 8 years in the blink of an eye when you are constantly defending yourself and your body.”
While strides in solitary confinement have been made since major lawsuits such as Peoples, the use of isolated confinement to impose punishment, as an alleged safety mechanism, or as a default for people’s identities is still too widespread and continues to affect Black and Latino people disproportionately. Black individuals represent 18% of all people in New York State but 50% of those in prison and 60% of those in solitary confinement.
The HALT Bill specifically considers the experiences of transgender people and proposes that anyone who is lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT), or is perceived to be, shall not be placed in solitary confinement due to the increased amount of sexual violence and isolation LGBT people tend to experience while in isolation.
You can read more about the experiences of transgender people in isolated confinement in this 2014 article Transgender Women in New York Prisons Face Solitary Confinement and Sexual Assault.