As an increasing number of states across the country cave under mounting social and legal pressure from activist organizations that are fighting for biologically male inmates to be placed in women’s facilities, a flurry of male prisoners in the United States have demanded access to women’s prisons under the changing laws.
Janiah Monroe, aged 29, recently won his battle against the state of Illinois to be granted access to a women’s prison. Mr. Monroe’s rap sheet includes convictions for second-degree murder, attempted murder, aggravated battery and attempted aggravated arson.
At age 17, Mr. Monroe strangled to death his 31-year-old male jail cell mate, Kimani Muhammad, during an argument. At the time of the homicide, Mr. Monroe was being held on suspicion of aggravated battery with a firearm after he shot two people outside a barber shop.
The violent felon said he feared for his life over the decade he spent in men’s prison, claiming he was subjected to “constant sexual harassment.” Responding to his pleas, MacArthur Justice Center and the Uptown People’s Law Center filed a lawsuit demanding that Mr. Monroe be transferred to a women’s facility. Illinois complied, and the prisoner was moved from Pontiac Correctional Center to Logan on April 1.
Similarly, ACLU of North Carolina attorney Sneha Shah declared about the case of her client, career felon Kanautica Zayre-Brown: “She is being housed in an all-male prison in Harnett County, that she is forced to shower amongst men openly, not given any privacy to change or to shower. She is forced to sleep amongst men.” The situation is causing “escalating distress” to the 37-year-old habitual offender, his attorney says, though Zayre-Brown admits he has never actually been attacked by other inmates.
The ACLU gave no word on whether female inmates would or should be afforded the privacy to change, sleep and shower away from the biologically male Mr. Zayre-Brown. Female inmates are survivors of sexual abuse at such a high rate that researchers have speculated that sexual abuse may be a “pathway to prison” for women. Many female inmates suffer from post-traumatic stress disorders, depressive disorders and substance use disorders as a result of their history of sexual trauma. In addition, female inmates are routinely sexually terrorized by male guards at what Amnesty International USA described as “crisis” rates. Social justice organizations have taken little action on this issue, while seeking to cage the vulnerable women in with biologically male people.
In Mr. Zayre-Brown’s case, the ACLU threatened to file a lawsuit against North Carolina if the state did not move him to a women’s facility by the organization’s arbitrary deadline. 500 individuals, including representatives of various activist groups, signed a petition that was delivered to Governor Cooper.
On March 28, Mr. Zayre-Brown was given his own cell at Warren Correctional Institution in Manson, a men’s facility. Department of Public Safety spokesperson John Bull said the “eventual goal” is “moving Zayre-Brown to a female facility.” The convict was named Kevin Chestnut before he was granted a legal name change, a wig and cosmetic surgeries.
As with convicted murderer Janiah Monroe, 27-year-old male convict Deon Hampton, who now goes by the moniker “Strawberry,” was also transferred to Logan Correctional Center following a grueling legal battle. Mr. Hampton, who is serving a 10-year sentence for residential burglary, claimed he faced sexual abuse from fellow inmates and guards. He was moved to the women’s prison on December 28 of last year.
Mr. Zayre-Brown, hoping to share the good fortune of Mr. Hampton and Mr. Monroe, says all he wants is “fairness.” “I am a female,” he claims. “I am going to be treated as a female. I want the state to recognize me as a female and treat me accordingly.”
“There are many more Janiahs in IDOC custody,” Vanessa del Valle of the MacArthur Justice Center said in a statement that some women’s advocates find threatening due to its implications for female inmates. “Until IDOC overhauls its policies and procedures and until staff is effectively retrained, trans women in IDOC custody remain at great risk for sexual violence and abuse.”
The fear of women’s advocates like Sheila Jeffreys that men could become the dominant population in women’s prisons seem plausible. Currently, only 6.8 percent of female inmates in the US are women, even now that men who identify as transgender women are included in those statistics. Most of these women are incarcerated for property crimes. Meanwhile, 21 percent of men who identify as transgender women have spent time in prison or jail, compared with five percent of the rest of the population. In United Kingdom prisons, more than half of transgender inmates are sexual offenders. The UK’s policy of allowing inmates to choose their sex and be housed accordingly had to be partially reversed in February after several biologically male transgender inmates sexually attacked imprisoned women.
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ABC 11 Eyewitness News
RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) — A dozen advocates representing several local rights groups and hundreds of people delivered a letter to Governor Cooper Friday morning, calling on him to take action in the case of Kanautica Zayre-Brown, a female transgender inmate at the Harnett Correctional Institution.
RALEIGH, N.C. — Activists demanded Monday that a transgender inmate be moved from an all-male prison to a state facility that houses women, with the American Civil Liberties Union threatening a lawsuit if the move isn’t made.
A 17-year-old Cook County Jail inmate was charged with first-degree murder Wednesday for allegedly strangling his cellmate after the two were heard arguing in their cell in a maximum-security wing.
Heart of Illinois ABC
LINCOLN, Ill. (HOI) — The Illinois Department of Corrections has approved the transfer of another transgender woman to a female facility in Lincoln.
A 26-year-old transgender woman serving a 10-year sentence in Illinois for burglary is seeking a rarely granted transfer to a female prison where she says she’ll be less vulnerable to the kinds of sexual assault, taunting and beatings she’s been subjected to in male prisons.