The Prisoner Justice Project (PJP) at the Sylvia Rivera Law Project (SRLP) has a long history of providing legal and supportive services to our transgender, gender non-conforming, and intersex communities in state prison, and we have recently been able to focus even more of our efforts on our communities held in New York City jails.
In the fall and winter of 2014, PJP members assisted in providing trainings to various correction officers within the New York City Department of Corrections (DOC) on working with transgender, gender non-conforming and intersex people (TGNCI) in ways that are respectful, humanizing, and dignified. These trainings paved the way to open the Transgender Housing Unit within the DOC, a housing unit that SRLP, along with other organizations and TGNCI leaders, assisted in setting up.
The Transgender Housing Unit provides a voluntary space for transgender and gender non-conforming people held within the New York City DOC. This is a housing unit that our community members have been requesting for years. SRLP has been partnering with the New York Legal Assistance Group to offer Know-Your-Rights and cultural classes to the individuals held in the Transgender Housing Unit.
This spring, we also began working to reduce the harm our incarcerated communities face by offering advice and suggestion to the Board of Corrections – the body that investigates and monitors the DOC and ensures their compliance with minimum standards – and to the New York City DOC itself. We hope that this vigilance can ensure that no New York City official can ever claim ignorance about the conditions of confinement of TGNCI populations.
Since May of this year, we have been attending each monthly meeting of the Board of Corrections to submit proposed regulations, to offer testimony as to conditions, and to share the stories and concerns of our community members on the inside.
We also submitted our proposed amendments to the City’s Prison Rape Elimination Act standards, and in July, we testified to the importance of not limiting visitation and packaging rights.
Besides these new strategies, the PJP continues to offer our legal services to people in prison and NYC jails, which includes assisting with name changes, obtaining hormones and gender appropriate undergarments, parole preparations, and advocacy around solitary confinement, sexual violence and violations of the Prison Rape Elimination Act.
By keeping our #EyesOnRikers we hope to add to the many voices of our communities and allies in closing Rikers and all jails and prisons.