The prison system has no protection for trans folks.

Currently, most California State Prisons do not have any policy regarding transgender inmates. I know you are shocked. In a climate where sexual violence is a norm, one would think that highly vulnerable populations would receive special treatment, but clearly this is not the case.
So I suppose this story is not shocking, but upsetting nonetheless. Alexis Giraldo, a formerly incarcerated trans woman at Folsom State Prision, lost her case against several prison employees (nurses, guards and social workers) when her charges of rape were dropped. Her lawyer said it was a “clear indication of rape” and that she had asked many different people for help, but no one came to her aid.
However, the San Francisco court ruled in favor of the prison staff.

Deputy Attorney General Jose Zelidon-Zepeda said there was no evidence of violence in Giraldo’s communications with guards, counselors and nurses.
He pointed out that Giraldo had also engaged in consensual sex with her cellmate, argued that many of her assertions were contradicted by evidence, and attacked her credibility, saying her lawsuit was driven by greed.

The power differential between inmates fighting against injustices done to them within the system is already so great it tragically distorts the outcomes. Who are the courts going to support? It will cost them so much money to audit a prison or fire people and it will make the state look very very bad. It is so much easier to just let them go.
Now if they are not guilty of the crime at hand, I suppose I could have more empathy. But if one of the rationales for ruling in favor of the prisons was that she had already HAD consensual sex, well pardon me if I am not that impressed. You can have consensual sex and be raped by the SAME person. Just because you had sex with someone before, it does not mean you owe it to them again. If you are forcibly raped against your will, you deserve the protection of the law, irrelevant of past encounters. Men rape their wives. That actually happens and it is rape, and it doesn’t matter whether they had consensual sex in the past. Furthermore, if you are locked in a cell, it is not like you can runaway.

Seven jurors voted to hold the seventh employee, Sgt. Darrel Ayers, responsible for inflicting emotional distress on Giraldo. But in civil trials, nine votes are needed for the plaintiff to win damages. Walston – who said he is considering whether to retry the case – had argued that Ayers failed to act after being told of Giraldo’s complaints.

Giraldo asked Judge Chaiton to demand the establishment of laws that protect the rights of transgender inmates, but her pleas dropped as Giraldo is no longer within the prison system. Again, currently California State Prisons have NO POLICY to protect the rights of transgender inmates.

Join the Conversation

  • noname

    Is this really a transgender issue? One would think the right not to be raped is a human issue.

  • sojourner

    “One would think the right not to be raped is a human issue.”
    Yes, but trans people are more frequently subject to abuse in the prison system and by the police. Amnesty International USA did a report on this issue a couple of year ago. I remember the case of a female to male transgender who was placed in a cell with a man who repeatedly raped him/her, with the knowledge of the guards who simply looked the other way.

  • marle

    Noname, of course men or anyone else shouldn’t be raped either, but this particular story is about a transwoman who did not have the rights that ciswomen have to not be locked in a prison cell with a man, and was raped, which is horrible.
    It’s terrible how common prison rape is, and it’s worse that society views it as expected, or inevitable,
    or even unimportant. We need to stop it, though I don’t know how. Caring might be a good start. Also, not imprisoning people for smoking pot would be another (so there’s less people and it’s easier to implement preventive measures, like single-person cells or whatever).
    Samhita, I also agree with you that the prior consensual sex isn’t really much of a defense. First of all, a transwoman in a prison cell does not have as much freedom to say no to sex as any person should have, and even if she wasn’t originally saying yes out of fear or coercion, she didn’t have any opportunities to leave when that changed. Not that I’d blame anyone who had the opportunity but didn’t, but the idea that a transwoman in prison couldn’t have been raped because she consented before is laughable and cruel.

  • judgesnineteen

    It is WRONG that they even brought up that she had had consensual sex with that person before. That should not be allowed in rape cases because we all know that it is not relevant to whether or not it was rape THIS time, but it can be used to sway juries anyway.
    And we do need to work on all kinds of prison rape, because it’s not exclusively a transgender issue. But at the same time, people who are especially vulnerable need extra attention paid to protecting them. Does anyone know of a website or anything that deals with the issue of prison rape?

  • werechick

    I’m sure when the person in need of protection is an incarcerated former cop, they don’t give him that kind of shit.

  • Roni

    I think the most basic and blatant red flag that the prison system ignores trans people is imprisoning them according to their birth gender as opposed to current gender.
    If you throw a trans woman in with male prisoners, her being raped is a predictable outcome.

  • noname

    Roni – If I am not mistaken, the person in question here is still legally a man, correct?

  • Roni

    Noname- I don’t believe the article states one way or the other, and really, it’s not particularly relevant. If she is taking hormone treatments, as she was even before incarceration, and presenting as a woman, that would single her out for abuse far more than whether there is an M or an F on a file somewhere. If I recall, some states will not allow a person to legally change gender, rendering her status in this instance super extra irrelevant.

  • marle

    Noname, yes she’s still legally a man, but (according to the article) she’s taking female hormones so she looks feminine and has been living as a woman. You do NOT force someone like that into male-only space.

  • noname

    What I am saying is that there is a policy for transgendered inmates. They are treated the same as anyone else of their legal sex.

  • Jessi

    Noname: treating a transperson the same as anyone else of their legal sex may seem like “equality,” but it’s not.
    The fact is, there are reasons that women and men are not kept in the same prison (let alone the same CELLS). If a person is put into a male prison because they are “legally male”, it is like putting a man and a woman together because they are both human.
    Ideally, rape would not occur, but it is negligent and frankly abusive to assume it won’t, particularly when one of the inmates has asked for protection.
    Prisons have separate cells for celebrities and high-profile cases to protect them from other inmates. Why should this not be true for transgendered people?

  • sojourner

    “What I am saying is that there is a policy for transgendered inmates. They are treated the same as anyone else of their legal sex.�
    Officially yes, but even then, why is that OK? If they need more protections they should be given more protections.
    On the other hand in actuality they are not treated the same, they targets of abuse by police and prison guards as well as other prisoners *because* of being transgendered.


    The residential/corrections center I worked at had a transgendered inmate. “Legally” he was considered male, but had an extremely petite, effeminate body (including hips), walked like a woman, had a higher pitched voice, was emotionally sensitive, and was attracted to men. Eventually, most staff members couldn’t help but refer to him as “she” (or by using other female pronouns). It wasn’t conscious–it just happened, because all our instincts told us we were dealing with a woman.
    And yet…and yet. This young woman was placed in a unit with hormonal, violent, hyper-masculine young men. The results were as expected; she was targeted, bullied, and eventually viewed as a sexual outlet.
    It was infuriating to watch the levels of enforced victimization. She should not have been there, but despite all our protests, no exceptions were made. The administrative staff turned a blind eye to her unique situation and disregarded the possibility of her being transgendered. It was completely unnecessary, completely avoidable, and caused her intense despair to the point of suicidal ideation.