SRLP Publication

It's War In Here

A Report on the Treatment of Transgender and Intersex People in NYS Men's Prisons

'It's War in Here': A Report on the Treatment of Transgender and Intersex People in New York State Men's Prisons, one of the first to address this issue, draws on interviews with imprisoned transgender people and their advocates to document the widespread harassment, physical and sexual abuse, discrimination, and violence that transgender, intersex, and gender non-conforming people face inside state custody.

It's War in Here illustrates the cycles of poverty and discrimination that result in so many transgender and gender non-conforming people being poor, homeless, and imprisoned, and is a valuable resource in educating policy-makers, attorneys, service providers, and community organizations about this urgent issue.

You can download the publication for free here. For a hard copy of the 50-page report, contact info [at] srlp [dot] org. The report is free, but to cover postage, we encourage you to donate to SRLP if you can afford to do so. It's War In Here is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License and we encourage others to re-distribute and utilize this report and it's contents, in your work towards greater justice for incarcerated trans, intersex, and gender non-conforming people.

Printing was kindly donated by the law firm Bingham McCutchen LLP.

From the introduction:

Since opening in 2002, the Sylvia Rivera Law Project (SRLP) has provided free legal services to over 700 intersex, transgender, and gender non-conforming people. Our clients are low-income people and people of color who face discrimination in the areas of employment, housing, education, healthcare, and social services.

Since our founding, the attorneys and advocates at SRLP have consistently witnessed the disproportionate representation of our clients in the criminal justice system as a result of police proÞling, poverty, and the necessity of becoming involved in criminalized activities to survive. We have also witnessed the exceptionally violent conditions they face once imprisoned. Unfortunately, very little information has been collected about transgender people and people with intersex conditions across the United States or their experiences of conÞnement.

A few key legal cases have highlighted the pervasive sexual violence or gender-related medical discrimination that they encounter while imprisoned. However, because corrections systems do not generally keep data regarding how many people in the criminal justice system are transgender or intersex or the nature of their experiences during imprisonment, a considerable gap exists with respect to information about this group of people.

Forty percent of SRLP's clients over the last four years have had criminal justice issues in their cases, demonstrating the disproportionate role the system plays in our communities. SRLP has served 106 clients who were imprisoned during the period over which we provided them with services.

These clients overwhelmingly report experiencing assault, denial of urgently needed medical care, and placement in gender inappropriate facilities. While much of this discrimination is clearly illegal under existing law, the lack of legal support available to imprisoned people results in most being unable to enforce their rights.

SRLP undertook this research to document the experiences of our clients in New York State prisons. We recognize that while we do not have the capacity to collect broad-scale empirical research about this population, we can share the wealth of qualitative information we have obtained through advocacy on behalf of our imprisoned clients over the past three years.

To create this report and to illustrate the conditions of conÞnement that are commonly reported by our clients, the author corresponded with and gathered detailed narratives from twelve SRLP clients who are currently or were formerly imprisoned in various New York State men's prisons. In addition, the author interviewed a range of New York City-based advocates and service providers who work with transgender communities.

We hope that the information contained in this report is useful in assessing the issues facing members of our community who are entangled in the criminal justice system, and in developing and implementing policies and practices to alleviate the violence and discrimination they face inside New York State correctional facilities.

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