Target: New York City Department of Correction Commissioner Joe Ponte
Goal: Applaud changes in jail facilities to accommodate transgender inmates
New York City’s Department of Correction is revamping housing units on Rikers Island to accommodate transgender inmates. The Transgender Housing Unit aims to provide a safe environment in the city-run facility for transgender women.
According to a study by Lambda Legal, transgender women are 13 times more likely to experience violence in detention than cis-gender, or non-trans, inmates. The announcement of the new housing unit comes amid extensive changes at the DOC under Commissioner Joe Ponte, who stated in a press conference that the units are intended to “offer transgender women safe and respectful separation from the general [prison] population.”
Prior to the advent of the Transgender Housing Unit on Rikers Island, transgender women in prison and other detention centers across the country have generally been placed in men’s prisons. Many authorities also incorrectly identify them as men who like to dress like women. As a result, trans inmates are frequently placed in wards for the mentally ill or detained in solitary confinement for up to 23 hours a day.
Despite opposition from legal and advocacy groups, trans inmates will not be forced into the specially designated housing units. Instead, it will be offered as an alternative to being housed with non-trans and cis-gender inmates, and suggested if trans detainees feel that they are unsafe in regular units.
The DOC has also stated that inmates held in the Transgender Housing Unit on Rikers Island will have access to programs and services catered to their unique needs, and that staff members who are specially trained and comfortable working with the LGBT community will be the only individuals allowed to work in the housing units.
Sign the petition to commend Commissioner Joe Ponte for spearheading this groundbreaking institution and for supporting transgender rights.
Dear Commissioner Joe Ponte,
It has recently come to my attention that Rikers Island plans to create a special housing unit for trans inmates. This decision is a landmark in the fight for trans rights, even behind bars. Just as young adults, juveniles and mentally ill inmates have unique needs, so do men who identify as women, despite their biological assignment. Your decision to provide this population with specialized housing is a policy ripe with progress and empathy.
Thank you for spearheading such a revolutionary program and for proudly supporting transgender rights.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Djarter via Wikimedia Commons