In her continuing letters, transgender inmate Lynn expresses her frustrations at the current state of corrections and highlights the intolerance she has experienced at the hands of staff.
When correctional staff unprofessionally single out the incarcerated, yell or berate them, target them for retribution a trauma is inflicted that has long lasting effects. Lynn’s experience is unique from her non-transgender peers, for there is a degree of intolerance within corrections which targets vulnerable populations like our Nation’s incarcerated. LGBTQ. PREA, the Prison Rape Elimination Act has put into place legal protections for these vulnerable populations and it’s a good start. But what happens when these protections rely upon the integrity of those tasked with your safety, to report and prosecute those who violate the law, are themselves the ones violating it?
We should listen to those we so freely jail because we have a responsibility as a society to do so. When we stop listening we surrender to the primal emotions of the human condition.
Trans Trip (Pt.2)
By Lynn S.
5:30AM–Get up and grab my bra and toiletries. I pad quietly through the dorm to the restroom and into a toilet stall. Other than the showers, it’s the only other private place I can dress. At least PREA has made some difference here. Next I shave wash and comb my hair. No cosmetics to cover the beard shadow. At least at this hour there are few people up to see me. I live in a male prison as a trans woman so there’s no changing clothes in my open bed area, no sleeping shirtless on 90F+ nights and no wearing only a sports bra. That would get me into trouble for creating a disturbance.
There are changes in Ohio’s prisons policy and tolerance. But it’s very slow and inconsistent from one facility to the next. The newer younger generation of staff are more tolerant, while the senior staff tend to be the ones who still teach hate and discrimination. And since they have seniority, they usually go unchecked for their prejudice. This in turn often pressures their peers to avoid being seen as “pro-inmate” or to act hateful or to be afraid to speak out about the wrong being done.
Most of the staff at my facility don’t know about cross gender searches or know what to do in any PREA situation. They are instructed to contact the shift Lt. should anything come up. If you PREA a staff member here it is intercepted, disavowed and you are labeled a trouble maker. If you push the issue, they will transfer you out. The staff member is not reprimanded. That’s akin to you filing a police report, the authorities showing up and calling you a liar, and then forcing you to move across the state. These are the very people paid to help facilitate positive change in us.
I’ve heard custody staff tell people that inmates have no rights. Worse yet is having an inmate repeat it to others because they believe it. Our experience while here ultimately affects our lives out there.
When we are treated as human beings that have made mistakes and poor decisions PREVIOUSLY in our lives, we can then take time to rehabilitate. It gives many of us permission to grow and correct our thinking. It gives us space to mature and to learn where our mistakes were made and that we can change. Programming is supplemented by staff treatment. Maybe we need better staff?
Ohio can’t afford better staff though. They can’t even afford to keep their plumbing in working order. My location has potholes in the walkways, and the department of corrections couldn’t reroof the aging dorms before running out of funds. But they can afford new ATVs and more cameras to put up on outdoor areas. And anytime there is an outside transport needed our outdoor recreation yard gets shut down due to lack of security to cover it. If only you could see how cheerful officers are when they get held over and forced to work a double shift.
This budget problem has an upside. It’s forcing Ohio to close prisons. There has been a shifting of the inmate population to condense it. A lot of “honor” camps have been closed. It’s forcing politicians to rethink policy and reduce the population. It has been a long time coming. Several old numbers have been cleared over the last 18 months. These are people that have been repeatedly denied parole over the course of 30 and 40 years for reasons not related to rehabilitation or their behavior in recent years of incarceration. Ohio can no longer afford the mass incarceration attitude. It doesn’t work and nobody wants to pay the bill for it. There is still so much to be fixed with the laws and prison system itself. Not to mention the post release issues. These problems take policy written by forward thinking government backed by informed taxpayers.
Until my next letter to you all.
Lynn S. (OH)
I began lettersfromchristopher in 2019 as a way to draw attention to the plight of America’s incarcerated. Thank you to all of you for following week after week. Please share these posts with others. –Christopher–