Rikers to Open Transgender Unit

Mariah Lopez (Photo by Donna Aceto via Gay City News)

Mariah Lopez (Photo by Donna Aceto via Gay City News)

Rikers Island jail plans to open a dedicated unit for transgender inmates some time this fall, Andy Humm reports in Gay City News. The U.S. attorney’s office in New York recently charged the Department of Correction with systematically abusing the rights of teenaged prisoners at Rikers, and violence toward and abuse of prisoners of all ages there have been the subject of numerous press reports recently.

Gay City News said that the new transgender unit, which reportedly will be one of the first of its kind in the U.S., was first revealed by Mariah Lopez, a trans activist and former Rikers prisoner, in a Facebook post.

Lopez, who is the executive director of STARR, the Strategic Trans Alliance for Radical Reform, wrote that [the new unit] was in response to “abuses so severe and taboo, that most people (the general public and elected officials) believe these ‘practices’ to be outlawed, and/ or no longer practiced.”

Lopez wrote that the “abuses include strip-searches by officers; beating [and] frequent rapes of Trans individuals while incarcerated throughout the United States,” citing Amnesty International’s 2003 report, “Stonewalled.”

The article went on to note that the news in the post by Lopez was confirmed.

A spokesperson for the Department of Correction confirmed on background that a dedicated unit is planned for the fall for biologically-born men who are transitioning to life as women, but that the department does not currently have plans for a female-to-male unit because there are not sufficient numbers to justify it. The spokesperson confirmed that the choice of whether to be assigned to the unit will be up to the transgender inmate.

Rikers once had separate gay, lesbian and trans units. To read more about them, and the reasons why activists urge separate trans units, go to Gay City News.

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