Trans Prisoners Have Rights

Laverne Cox in OITNB

We all love Orange Is the New Black, but what rights do trans prisoners really have?

Laverne Cox, the transgender actor who plays a transgender prisoner, Sophia Burset, in Orange Is the New Black, has become a cultural icon and a hero to many trans people. But what is it like for real-life incarcerated trans people?

On December 18, 2014, the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) released “Know Your Rights: Laws, Court Decisions, and Advocacy Tips to Protect Transgender Prisoners,” a new guide that provides vital information for transgender prisoners.

The NCLR is a national legal organization committed to advancing the human and civil rights of the LGBT community through litigation, public policy advocacy, and public education. NCLR attorneys litigate on behalf of incarcerated transgender people across the country to protect their rights to safety and medical care.

In spite of the legal actions and education initiatives, many prisons continue to subject transgender people to discrimination and abuse, exposing them especially to medical neglect, violence and sexual assault.

The guide aims to address these inequities, its sections covering topics such as:

The guide is divided into seven sections: The Prison Rape Elimination Act, Safety and Protection from Violence, Medical Care, Housing and Administrative Segregation, Searches and Privacy, and Safely Preserving and Enforcing Your Rights.

Co-author of the guide, Amy Whelan, NCLR Senior Staff Attorney, stated:

“Transgender prisoners endure horrific conditions in our nation’s prisons and jails, including extreme sexual and physical violence, denial of basic medical care, and unsafe living conditions. Yet their stories of survival and resiliency are inspiring. This guide is intended to help transgender prisoners navigate some of the most common and dangerous situations that put them at risk of harm and abuse.”