Dr. Jillian T. Weiss

Trans Inmate Transferred From Female to Male Prison

Filed By Dr. Jillian T. Weiss | August 22, 2011 4:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Living, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: corrections system, Jovanie Saldana, Philadelphia Daily News, transgender inmates

prison_bars.jpgA story in the Philadelphia Daily News raises some troublesome questions about the treatment of transgender inmates. There are a number of concerns also raised by the way the story is being reported by the paper as well. I have contacted one of the reporters on the story, and we have plans to speak on Wednesday.

Firstly, given the stereotypes of transgender people, it is not an encouraging sign that the story begins with the phrase "GET NAKED, squat and cough." Further references to "keisters" and "butts" don't help either.

The reporter asserts that Jovanie Saldana, 23, accused of armed robbery, "somehow suckered the system" because authorities placed her in a women's prison. She has spent the last 14 months incarcerated at Riverside Correctional Facility, the city's only female prison. The story suggests that she has identified as trans since the age of 12.

But after Saldana had the audacity to file a complaint about being being forced into oral sex with a corrections officer, prison officials listened into Saldana's phone conversations with her mother and learned that she is transgender.

She was immediately transferred to a men's prison and the investigation is apparently in jeopardy. Lorenzo North, president of the union representing corrections officers, asserted that the fact that Saldana is transgender proves that the accused officer is innocent. As if being transgender means that one cannot be forced into oral sex.

Corrections officials have quickly closed ranks, and a source close to the prison system, who asked not to be identified, asserted that Saldana tallied at least two infractions for fighting with other inmates, although the story does not indicate whether "fighting" includes physical force or injuries.

The accused officer was transferred to another prison after Saldana's recent complaint. "I'm trying to get him back to RCF [Riverside] as soon as possible, because he didn't do anything wrong," North said.

The actions and statements of the officers in the story would seem to give rise to an inference of retaliation against a sexual assault victim. Given the discrimination often experienced by transgender inmates, that is not a far-fetched inference, but we will have to await more details before forming a conclusion.


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What I simply do not understand is if she is Pre-Op, how in gods name did they not notice that? 14 months in lock up where EVERYONE gets body cavity searches and EVERYONE takes group showers. How is it even remotely possible she managed to hide her ...um.... boi parts(?) that long with no one noticing it? Unless she is Post-Op? In that case, why is she in a male prison now?
This story fails all logic. And no matter how you look at it, the Prison system HAS FAILED across the board.
And now a person is being subjected to crewl and unusual punishment.

OH and a male prison guard wouldn't force an inmate in to oral sex??? Yeah, right he would never black male a Pre-Op MtF in a womans prison in to oral sex...yeah, right...sure... fail, total fail.

I think what is most problematic about this story is that it proves the knee-jerk response of correctional authorities, upon learning of an offender's transgender status, is still to house him/her according to biological/anatomical condition apart from any other considerations. Moving Ms. Saldana to the men's prison had nothing to do with keeping her safe from the officer that assaulted her; it was entirely to do with the authorities finding out that she was trans. Her being transgender had clearly not been a problem for her, the facility, or the other inmates when she was housed with the women--no one even figured it out! The other disturbing issue, that of the corrections officers' union blaming the victim for the assault and insinuating that her transgender status has something to do with her having been assaulted, probably would have occurred regardless of whether Ms. Saldana was in a men's or a women's facility. However, it is extremely unjust that as a result of her reporting the officer, she is now being placed in a situation where she is in even greater jeopardy.

More information is needed here. As Gina pointed out, how would a pre-op inmate be able to avoid disclosing her status during a body cavity search?

Why is the shape of Saldana's crotch anyone's business here? She was in a women's prison, was raped and when she complained, the prison learned she was trans, said that meant she wasn't raped, and transferred her into a men's prison where she's at much greater risk for further sexual assault.

Why do details about her medical history need to be revealed and discussed?

Cavity searches are only one small part of it. In most woman's prisons you live in a communal room with other women. She was there for 18 mos. Sorry, but there is no way other women don't see you naked... this is incarceration, not your own home environment. Between showers, getting dressed/undressed, dealing with periods there is zero, zero, zero chance of other prisoners not knowing. And if one prisoner knew it, then everyone is going to know it. It's not an environment where secrets get kept. I don't believe this was the great secret it was... her records listed her as "male." They're moving her either because: 1) The prison officials were afraid that, during the investigation of the rape, the "mis-assignment" would come out or 2) It was purely punitive for complaining. This bs meme of tran people "fooling" non-trans people needs to be called out.

'2' was my first thought. The idea that ppl did not know she was trans is laughable. Even if she had SRS, facial surgery, everything--there are no secrets in prison, I think...I can't even keep my history quiet in a area with over 700 ppl spread over a dozen buildings. Anyone new to the area, on seeing me or hearing about me, is told everything. I run into ppl all the time who I have never seen before, and they know who I am.

'2' was my first thought. The idea that ppl did not know she was trans is laughable. Even if she had SRS, facial surgery, everything--there are no secrets in prison, I think...I can't even keep my history quiet in a area with over 700 ppl spread over a dozen buildings. Anyone new to the area, on seeing me or hearing about me, is told everything. I run into ppl all the time who I have never seen before, and they know who I am.

Something is wrong with this story.... either way a wrong has been committed against her. We need to watch out for our sisters and stand up for them or this will only continue.

This kind of abuse will continue, as long as trans people continue to me mis-assigned on their legal documentation. Prison systems should not be permitted to house trans women (or trans men, who also experience terrible risks in many cases) in men's facilities. If necessary, those who are not post-op should have separate facilities from men (or even women) - not a separate wing in a men's prison.

I absolutely disagree. Trans men belong in men's prisons, and it is grossly inappropriate to suggest that they should be allowed into women's spaces at the expense of women.

Bill Perdue Bill Perdue | August 23, 2011 11:38 AM

Plain and simple, prisoners are slaves. Which is why the prisons of full of people of color and others like LGBT people, imported workers and poor people who are doubly and triply exploited outside of prisons.

The historical progression goes from chattel slavery which ended with the 1864 passage of the Thirteenth Amendment to the US Constitution and the 1865 crushing of the slaver confederacy. That was followed by neo-slavery under Jim Crow laws from 1876 until the late 1990's and the latest form of slavery promoted by the racist, anti GLBT and anti-worker drug laws, draconian anti-worker laws and sex laws.

All the wrong people are in prison. Most prisoners in a decent society could be let go, guaranteed good jobs at good wages or sent to hospitals. Then prisons could quickly be refilled by the usual, and in this case, real suspects
• corrupt politicians
• violence fomenting religious nuts like most clergy
• those who promote illegal wars
• those who cause environmental disasters
• those who murder workers with speedups
• and predatory lenders and managers of 'health services' companies that commit murder on a regular basis by denial of services.

I wouldn't resort to the rhetoric Bill uses but for the most part I think he's got it right. I am surprised no one has chimed in with the usual caveat about how people who don't want to do the time should do a legal crime. In an ideal world we would all be hedge fund managers, I suppose. Did I actually say "ideal"? Yeah, sure.

No question, something very rotten is going on here. If she says "no" and he did what she says he did she was RAPED. The one thing I haven't heard anyone mention, however, is hormones. How would she be be provided with them without the authorities knowing? If she wasn't provided with hormones what would that mean?

O K, I get it. She "identifies" as "trans". Again, what does that mean? Granted, there is so little information available here. So, one should come to conclusions? Does that mean there aren't many valid questions to be asked? Isn't it important whether she can get an erection or get someone pregnant? Is her "crotch" no one's "business".???

What about this idea: "trans women" should have "separate facilities from men (or even women)".??? Isn't that what ENDA Section(8)(a)(3) proposes:

shared shower or dressing facilities in which being seen fully unclothed is unavoidable, provided that the employer provides reasonable access to adequate facilities that are not inconsistent with the employee's gender identity as established with the employer at the time of employment or upon notification to the employer that the employee has undergone or is undergoing gender transition, whichever is later.

So, I suppose there should be funding provided for another prison construction boom to provide separate facilities for "trans" prisoners at the expense of providing funding for SRS for underprivileged transsexual people so we can house people who have female genitals with people who "identify" as "trans" who are perfectly capable of maintaining erections and functioning as males because they tell us they have a female "gender identity"? Is that what equality means?

As far as men in women's spaces is concerned, how does one determine who is actually a man? Is a "transmasculine" person with female parts really a "man"? How many such people would be traumatized by being segregated by men who function sexually as males?

I'm sorry, I've seen how broken and corrupt the criminal justice system is. I've heard the stories of abuse. This is a human rights story before it's a "trans" story. The prison problem is a problem that sheds light on some of the very few practical reasons for sex segregation. It's obvious from all the speculation here, all the projection, all the "shoulds" and "shouldn'ts", that real human rights issues get lost in all the gender theory. This is not a matter of semantics. It is not a matter of the mere words transgender and transsexual but of the meaning behind each. Trans isn't any better than transgender. Section 8(a)(3) defines what trans means ultimately. In a two sex society, "trans" means the sex you were assigned at birth and if somehow you can convince others you have a gender identity disorder you should get special consideration. That's all. In the case of post transsexual women, it means you can be segregated with people who are not even on hrt, people who are born male, people who still have a male sex drive and who are still capable of functioning as male. It means your sex reassignment will never be truly recognized.

If a person with a male sex drive, who is still capable of functioning sexually as a male, who obtains a diagnosis of "gender identity disorder", is placed in a women's facility why shouldn't a gay male be put in a women's facility as well? How does a person prove he is gay and not bi-sexual? Suppose it was determined it would be better to put all gay men in women's facilities because they are vulnerable in a male population? What about the rights of the women who would have them dumped on them? What about the men who would rather be segregated with males? What if the gay men, gender queers, transmasculine, transgender, post transsexual, transsexual pre-op, lesbians, etc., etc., etc. were all dumped in separate facilities. Would there be a sign over the front gate declaring that "Work Will Set You Free"? You know, there really are people who are born transsexual. If Saldana is one of them, I hope she is able to get the help she needs.

Isaac Hoppe | August 24, 2011 7:29 PM

Joan is only pointing out that, because of the lack of privacy, trans men do face extreme harrassment from other inmates in men's prisons. There is a risk for them that men who were born male do not experience. Knowing this and putting them in male populations anyway, isn't that worse than ignoring their gender?