LGBT Prisoners Battle The System

Four ex-prisoners–a transgender man, a gender non-conforming person and two queer female–filed a lawsuit against the State of California and the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR). Enduring homophobic and transphobic insults, these individuals claim to have been assaulted and sexually harassed by correctional officers while advocating for their basic human rights.

In one instance, which took place back in November of 2015, individuals had their clothing cut off, had their breasts and chests stomped on, were put in solitary confinement without cause, receiving no medical treatment for their injuries. In another occasion, on January of 2017, an individual was denied access to his medication, then attacked violently by multiple guards while in a wheelchair.

In all incidents, the individuals were obstructed when attempting to use the internal system of accountability designed to report abuses inside prisons.

According to Sara Kershnar of the California Coalition for Women Prisoners, “These incidents are part of a pattern of abuse at CCWF, part of a climate of increasing violence employed by correctional officers at CCWF against transgender, gender non-conforming and queer women prisoners. They represent a backlash against hard-won legal rights for trans people in prison, such as the right to access hormone therapy. They reflect officer resentment about changing cultural norms regarding gender identity. They also re-traumatize people who have suffered sexual violence and homophobia and transphobia before they were incarcerated.”

The plaintiffs’ demand systemic policy changes in the prisons to prevent such types of abuse and prejudice in the future.

For more information on how to shape the future of human rights in the prison system, go to