As Feministing has covered and continues to cover, the State of Connecticut is currently holding a 16-year-old trans Latina girl in prison under the ridiculous claim that there is no better place for her. She has been in prison for nearly 100 days, yet she has not been convicted of any crime. 16 year old “Jane” has been writing letters to the governor on her behalf, lawyers have mobilized a massive effort to get her adequate care that she needs, and supporters have been launching actions across the country, onlien an off.
Last week, as Katherine wrote for Feministing, Justice for Jane faced yet another major set back when it was announced that Jane was returning back to solidarity confinement at a male facility. There will be an action on Jane’s behalf this Wednesday in front of Connecticut’s Department of Children and Families if you’re in the area to support. If you can’t make it in person, Justice for Jane campaigners urge supporters to continue putting pressure on Governor Malloy and DCF as well as writing letters to Jane herself.
As the organizers stress, while Jane’s case is one noteworthy instance, the movement seeks to bring justice to any and all children who suffer from similar oppression like Jane — from racism, transphobia, and the prison industrial complex. As they say, “Anyone who seeks to join Justice for Jane should be prepared to join in for the long haul.” This week we spoke to Justice for Jane campaigners IV and Al Ricco to learn more about Jane’s case.
Now without further ado, IV and Al Ricco from Justice for Jane!
Suzanna Bobadilla: Thank you so much for speaking with me today. These past ten days in particular have been very difficult and devastating for Jane and her supporters. Could you give us an update how she’s doing?
IV: We just got news — about just over a week ago now — that Jane got transferred to the male facility and of course we are all really devastated about that. Right now a team of lawyers is working with Jane. There is going to be a hearing sometime in the near future about the allegations about Jane which is why they transferred her to the male facility. We don’t have a date yet, but we’ll announce it as soon as we know.
Right now, the Justice for Jane organizers have been urging supporters to continue writing letters to Jane, letters of support. She has been really appreciating those, they’ve literally been what’s keeping her afloat during all of these times of trouble. Also to make phone calls to DCF [Connecticut Department of Children & Families] and Governor Malloy who claims that he is extremely upset about all of this and that this isn’t looking good for him as a governor. We are urging people to put pressure on him as their elected official and as somebody who actually has sway with DCF and Commission Katz to get Jane out of that facility and into a more appropriate setting that is approved by her therapist, doesn’t go against the original ruling that was passed by the judge when deciding Jane’s case in the first place. The judge actually explicitly ruled that she is not to be put in a men’s facility.
We’ve said before that in the struggle for Justice for Jane we’ve had a number of families and individuals have experience as professionals working with trans kids, victims of abuse, and victims of the prison industrial complex, come up to foster or adopt Jane. DCF has ignored all of those requests and has not released Jane into these potentially wonderful loving homes. When you look at the discrepancy between what’s possible for Jane and what she’s being given — which is solitary confinement around the clock in a facility full of delinquent boys, it’s really appalling and we are really calling on people to raise their voices about this to contact politicians in Connecticut including Governor Mallory, and to stay tuned to the inevitable street action that we are going to call as soon as we have a date for her hearing.
SB: This might be a difficult question for you to answer but while I was preparing for this interview it continued to come up in my mind. In your opinion, could you share why you think the state of Connecticut still refuses to take proper care of Jane? Why is this happening?
IV: We have what they claim and we also have a very logical conclusion that people have been drawing. DCF claims that they are is just no place where they can put this girl, that there is no place that can contain her violent monstrosity. They paint her with all of these horrible adjectives. But in reality I think the situation is as follows: Jane along with her lawyers spoke out about what happened to her while in DCF care. She exposed a lot of the multiple abuses that she underwent while she was in DCF care, she made very very specific statements about the people who trafficked her, raped her, sexually assaulted her, and permitted for others to do so. What Commissioner Katz really wants to avoid in this situation isn’t Jane getting hurt again, it’s her own reputation. It’s DCF having to go under federal investigation and federal oversight again which is something that they just recently emerged from revealing other abuses of other kids.
So Commissioner Katz is placed between two choices right now: either address the situation that’s at hand at DCF, and take Jane’s words at the truth that they are, that she has been abused for years in DCF care and that there are other children who are being abused, or continue to demonize Jane and distract the public’s attention from what happened to her to what Jane is allegedly doing. I think that Jane’s gender identity and the grey area that the law creates around that has been giving Katz the opportunity to place Jane in the most oppressive facility she can. That’s disgusting because the few laws that do exist around transgender rights, Katz is blatantly violating. My personal opinion and the opinion of multiple people who are supporters of Jane is that they are vilifying her and are demonizing her just to keep their own reputation clean and to keep the public’s attention from what DCF has done to her and other kids.
SB: I’m borrowing this next question from the conversation that Justice for Jane hosted in Philadelphia that I wish I could have attended. How can we help unite multiple struggles to help Jane and others like her?
Al Ricco: The greater point that needs to be made is that really that we have analyzed Jane’s situation and others like her’s, we have seen victims versus victim blamers. That idea alone is what causes people to gravitate to Jane’s case and for them to feel such immense sympathy. Jane’s plight and the way that they are treating and repeated calling her a monster, that encompasses the idea of being victim blamed and encompasses the experience of a lot of oppressed people. It’s… like the prison industrial complex and the war on drugs, which is as a militarized war against poor people and especially people of color being victimized for nonviolent offensives that white rich people are allowed to get away with everyday. We see this culture of victim blaming with rape victims and the idea is that the victim must have done something to become a victim. So if you have faced the war on drugs, the prison industrial complex, or what have you, you can relate to what is happening with Jane.
IV: Jane’s case and Jane’s courage and her fight back have [brought together] communities who wouldn’t intersect in their organizing and in their fight back normally. We see this convergence of oppression in this one girl and because as communities and diverse communities we have been able to organically come together over her and to speak very equally about all of those different oppressions and how they factor into to her and how her life is a multi-faceted reflection of all of our struggles, it has brought together a lot of people who might not work together otherwise. So to answer your question, in order to continue building social movements, we always need to remember cases like Jane’s.
So the next time someone was racially profiled and they are trans, the trans community is going to remember Jane and the racism that was perpetrated against her alongside the transphobia and they are going to stand up for that victim of racism. Ultimately that is what ideally comes out of these types of fight back movements.
SB: It’s been a difficult time for the trans community: while Jane’s plight continues, four trans women of color were killed right during a time when many were celebrating Pride. But at the same time, as our own Jos has analyzed, we have increased conversations within the mainstream about trans rights thanks to advocates like Laverne Cox as well as Janet Mock. I was wondering what role you think mainstream organizations should play in fighting for justice for Jane?
IV: It’s a very important point that you are raising and I partially did a talk about it recently about how all of these horrific things are happening to trans folks and these attacks are escalating despite the increased media visibility of the trans community. We see that with a lot of other situations. For example, people said, “Racism is done because Obama is in office.” After Obama came into office there was increased visibility of black communities and black culture. Yet at the same time racist killings are escalating, the prison industrial complex continues to oppress people of color, and none of the systemic problems are being addressed despite the increased visibility of oppressed people.
I think what’s extremely important for oppressed communities to do is to understand that that type of visibility, while it’s helpful on the very short term level, doesn’t actually alleviate our oppression and doesn’t offer an excuse to stop fighting back for our rights and for a system in which we would be treated as human beings.
The role of media institutions is to definitely give voice to Laverne Cox, to give voice to members of the trans community who have been assimilated into the mainstream, but also look for stories about the ongoing oppression that is going on. Those are the voices that aren’t being heard, that’s who the working class queer community needs to hear. That you aren’t alone, that you don’t have to be a rich TV star in order to be viewed as a human transgender person. The more stories of true oppression, the more stories of trans grassroots organizing come to the surface the more that people are going to be actually empowered.
No matter how much visibility we get in the mainstream, no matter how much they try to assimilate us because of our successful fightback, we need to continue fighting back and continue shifting the paradigm in building a system when we don’t even have that oppression.
AR: When we get too caught up in media representations of trans people, it’s easy to for the mainstream to forget how economically disadvantaged we are and how not glamorous our struggles are. On the positive side, I am very glad to see that within the trans community and the gender nonconforming population that the voices who are leading are transgender women of color and I think that’s really important. There is still a lot of racism within white LGBT people, there is still a lot of sexism and transmisogyny among cisgender members. It’s a very incomplete step but it’s something. At least in my mind, it’s being led by the appropriate people.
SB: Our final question for you to today would be what resources for trans people, particularly for trans youth of color, you’d like to highlight.
IV: There is the Bronx LGBT center and they are having a conference call to expand the transgender services the offer in New York. There is a small New Haven grassroots organization that is the LGBT+ Youth KickBack. They do amazing work, they provide a safe space for youth to talk, they organize trips for other youth to go meet in activism, they train youth in activism and intersectional activism.
Suzanna Bobadilla has written her letter to Jane and hopes you join her.