Alex Blaze

How a transgender prisoner gets tougher punishment because of her gender identity

Filed By Alex Blaze | January 04, 2010 5:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Living, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: jail, Maria Benita Santamaria, meth, prison, transgender, transsexual

Six years of prison, solitary confinement, and denial of medical care, all for a nonviolent drug offense? Thank you, War on Drugs. You gave us such sane ways to deal with addiction.

Officials at Central Virginia Regional Jail said they had initially placed Maria Benita Santamaria in solitary confinement because they feared she would be raped by male inmates. Her attorney, Cathy Alterman, said they moved the 35-year-old to the medical wing late Wednesday night after U.S. District Court Judge T.S. Ellis ordered them to do so.

Santamaria pleaded guilty to trafficking 10 pounds of methamphetamine in August. She was arrested in June at a Lorton Comfort Inn and held without bail.

Alterman said Santamaria was born a male, but lives life as a woman and has a feminine appearance. She has been undergoing hormone treatment in preparation for a sex change operation for the past two years. Since she's been in prison, however, Alterman says Santamaria has not received the hormones and has started to grow facial hair.

More after.

During her stay in solitary confinement, Santamaria was treated no different than inmates on punitive lockdown, Deputy Superintendent Susan Fletcher said. She was allowed out of her cell for one hour a day and allowed to shower every three days.

Alterman said jail guards referred to Santamaria as "it" and the conditions have pushed her to consider suicide. Despite the threat of being raped by male inmates, Santamaria has repeatedly asked to be placed in general population.

Solitary confinement is the second worst punishment we dole out in the US for a reason - it's torture that drives people crazy:

There are a couple reasons why solitary confinement is typically used. One is that it's a very painful experience. People experience isolation panic. They have a difficult time psychologically coping with the experience of being completely alone.

In addition, solitary confinement imposes conditions of social and perceptual stimulus deprivation. Often it's the deprivation of activity, the deprivation of cognitive stimulation, that some people find to be painful and frightening.

Some of them lose their grasp of their identity. Who we are, and how we function in the world around us, is very much nested in our relation to other people. Over a long period of time, solitary confinement undermines one's sense of self. It undermines your ability to register and regulate emotion. The appropriateness of what you're thinking and feeling is difficult to index, because we're so dependent on contact with others for that feedback. And for some people, it becomes a struggle to maintain sanity.

That leads to the other reason why solitary is so often a part of torture protocols. When people's sense of themselves is placed in jeopardy, they are more malleable and easily manipulated. In a certain sense, solitary confinement is thought to enhance the effectiveness of other torture techniques.

Add that in with the fact that she was being denied necessary medical treatment related to her identity as well as being called "it" by the guards, and no wonder she'd want to be put back in with the general population, no matter what the cost.

All this for carrying some meth on her. Something tells me that her risk of addiction, or recidivism, will not have been reduced when she gets released. These were not the steps to take to put her on track, help her get work and a stable life with a stable identity, which, for her, includes hormone therapy. If it weren't for the judge ordering her moved to another prison, her punishment would have been lasting psychological damage for a nonviolent drug offense.

And if that judge hadn't ordered her moved to a federal prison that, the newspaper claims, can handle transgender prisoners, she would have effectively gotten a steeper sentence than a cissexual person who committed the same crime. It all started with a country that went crazy with trying to treat drug addiction with prisons that are obviously not equipped to deal with such issues.


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"During her stay in solitary confinement, Santamaria was treated no different than inmates on punitive lockdown, Deputy Superintendent Susan Fletcher said. She was allowed out of her cell for one hour a day and allowed to shower every three days."

OK so far nothing wrong with this. she made a choice to break the law and now is paying the penalty.

"Alterman said jail guards referred to Santamaria as "it" and the conditions have pushed her to consider suicide. Despite the threat of being raped by male inmates, Santamaria has repeatedly asked to be placed in general population."

Prison is not a nice place, many people consider suicide. You treating her as a delicate flower that was abused, everyone is abused in prison.. I have friend who is a guard at a prison and she says its hell on everyone. Im not going to have pity or her for being there, do the crime do the time. Make use of the time and make yourself better. And as far as the hormone therapy to bad...We shouldnt have to pay for her hormones while shes there, where paying for everything else.

Not feeling sorry for a criminal just because shes transgendered...not gonna do it..

No one deserves to be denied medical care because they're in prison.

Medical care you are right, this isn't medical care...

Hormone replacement therapy is necessary medical care for transsexual people, for their health and well being. What's more, the woman in question has been on hormones for two years prior to the imprisonment. Forcing her to stop treatment is going to cause medical problems and mess with her physiology, and that's definitely a cruel and unusual punishment (a cis person who committed the same crime would not suffer physiological problems, so it is injust to force that onto her).

Please note: You actually expect us to believe this line your write seemingly with a straight face?:

Forcing her to stop treatment is going to cause medical problems and mess with her physiology, and that's definitely a cruel and unusual punishment

That drug dealer (10 pounder to boot)was already long over due for the phyc-ward long before being denied hormone treatments. He/she gets absolutely no sympathy from me.

In that case, why are there even doctors in prisons? By your logic, if the prisoners get hurt or sick, they deserve it for being criminals. Even though, you know, being injured and sick is not part of their state-mandated sentence.

But maybe that only applies to "he/she"s.

Hormone depletion can cause a variation of menopause in transgendered women. It is torture. Why should we be treated like violent criminals for just being gender variant.

Hey, "He/She" is a slur. I thought this website was making some effort to be trans friendly and inclusive. Why is hate speech allowed in the comments?

Actually, yes, it is:

"She has been undergoing hormone treatment in preparation for a sex change operation for the past two years." That's medical *care*, *treatement*, not cosmetic surgery. Going off and on hormones can have damaging effects on your body, and she has every right to expect the medical care that's proper for her particular state. Being imprisoned for drug use does not make her less human or less deserving of basic rights.

If this were a story about dogs and cats being held in animal pounds without access to medication for their illnesses (and powers above know that we have managed to inflict our own diseases upon our pets with all the ridiculous food we feed them these days), there would be more fuss about the situation.

Also, the threat of rape is a real one, as I know you're aware. I'm going to go on a limb and assume that you are either a gay man or a lesbian woman (go ahead and correct me if I'm wrong). Here's hoping you never get into jail for anything - if you think you lead a blameless and "guilt-free" life, think again. The laws shift daily and you'll never know if some of your "hobbies" (recreational ones) might just land you in jail. Yesterday's marijuana is today's meth. Actually, if you live in some parts of Chicago and are a person of colour, it already is. And prison's not a pretty place for gays and lesbians.

At that time, you can depend on folks like me to fight to ensure your safety and access to the kind of food and medications you need to preserve your health and well-being.

That last comment was addressed to Midtowner, not Sas.

Sas states:

No one deserves to be denied medical care because they're in prison.

No one deserves to GET medical care because they're in prison, either.

Or are you advocating persons in need of an organ transplant to stay alive and who have no/inadequate health care coverage in the private sector commit a crime?

I'm on the heart transplant list; because my kidneys are also failing, and my pancreas already has, no matter how long I hover near the top of the list, I'm not going to get a heart until it becomes an absolute medical necessity.

The obvious answer is, of course, to house transsexual convicts in the appropriate gender-specific prison unless (and until) that prisoner displays and acts upon behavior(s) which makes their continued housing in that prison inappropriate.

When that prisoner is released from custody, they're free to resume their hormone therapy.

If someone is dependent upon an elected medical procedure/treatment to have some semblance of a "sane" life, then it is incumbent on that person to not commit crimes which threaten the discontinuation of that medical treatment.

Eric,

I think your statement here is such a logical fallacy, that it doesn't warrant too much of a response: "Or are you advocating persons in need of an organ transplant to stay alive and who have no/inadequate health care coverage in the private sector commit a crime?"

No, really? How do you even get to this point? We're talking about humane conditions for prisoners. No one here is advocating that people with conditions or without health care commit a crime. What's next in this long range of fallacies? That people will, horrors, commit crimes in order to get the wonderful, fabulous health care that's so freely available in our prisons?

I'll put this simply: If you committed a crime, no one would support you being taken off any of the lists you're on just because you "committed a crime" and were put into prison. Denying you medications for any of your conditions just because you're in prison would be inhumane and cruel. That's all we're arguing here.

As for the bit about: "it is incumbent on that person to not commit crimes which threaten the discontinuation of that medical treatment." a) What's happening here is that someone is being doubly criminalised for her condition, not her crime. b) As for the notion of "crime," please see the vast literature available on how the definition of "crime" can change drastically. You can start with some of the points raised by Alex and expanded on by a couple of us here.

Yes, she trafficked in drugs, but what we're discussing here, without jumping through the hoops of too many logical fallacies like the one you just posited, is whether or not she should get medical treatment. It's really as simple as that.

Address the issues raised, please. Don't invent new ones.

Yasmir,

I can see where I did not make myself clear; again, I victimized myself with a bad edit. I removed a few lines, solely and simply because I'm pretty certain they would raise a hornet's nest.

However, that being said, I can see where the lack of inclusion made my posting somewhat vague.

Edited from my post, and now included in this post:

Transitioning is, as I understand it, a necessary component for a transsexual to achieve the goal of living as the gender they perceive themselves to be.

However, it is a completely elective procedure.

Some states, such as NY and CA have decided that transsexual inmates who have reached a certain point in their transition must continue, at least, hormone therapy so that their transition is minimally affected. Other states treat transsexuals simply as inmates, their gender based entirely upon their "birth equipment." (I apologize for not being aware of the "proper term"). It's a state-by-state decision.

Believe it or not, I have interviewed more than one transsexual prostitute in Santa Clara County jail, as well as a few committed to the California Department of Corrections, who DID purposely commit "petty crimes" in order to obtain a year or two of gratis medical treatment.

One, named Dianne, I interviewed in 1992; she had just been arrested on her 50 or 60th prostitution bust, and was looking at up to a year in county jail.

Instead, when she was found to be HIV-positive during her intake screening, and she admitted to sometimes engaging in unprotected sex with her clients, she was ultimately the first person in Santa Clara County to be charged under a then-new law: She was charged with over 100 counts of attempted murder; ultimately, she pled guilty to far lesser offenses, but was sentenced to 7 years in prison.

And her treatment stopped. She not only had not reached the point in her transition where the continuation of treatment was mandated by the CDC (California Department of Corrections), but a prison psychiatrist determined she was not truly a transsexual, as she had no desire to have all her male equipment removed. Apparently, in a jail interview, Diane had told the psychiatrist one of her plans when she was finally released was to make "he/she" films.

Should her treatment have been continued on the taxpayer dime, especially since it was her intent all along to commit a crime solely to have the penal system provide her health care?

Now, as to the woman Alex mentions: 10 pounds of meth has a street value of... what? Tens of thousands of dollars? A hundred thousand dollars? More?

The distribution of ten pounds of meths would have resulted in the deaths of how many addicts? How many innocents, killed by an addict? How many families would have been directly affected if that meth had hit the street?

She made a choice to be a mule.

The state in which she is incarcerated determines prison occupation based on the gender of a person at birth.

Unfortunately, she chose the action that determines her current status.

If she sues the state for continuation of therapy and housing in a woman's prison, I wish her the best of luck. But one of the things a prison has to do is provide a modicum of safety for inmates, especially those inmates that are at risk, as a transsexual would be in the general population of a men's prison. There is no doubt she would be repeatedly raped; she would be passed around from one hard-timer to another. She would be physically assaulted, daily. Ultimately, she would probably be killed.

Prison is a harsh reality both by design and by population. The design of the prison, and the prison system, is to both punish for a current crime and serve as a deterrent to future crime. The reality, in too many prisons, is the inmates have control, and know it.

It may be tortuous, but the only way the prison system can ensure her safety - and even then, she's not completely safe - is to have her in an isolation cell.

It's harsh, but it was also completely her choice.

Eric,

Do you have a link for this story so that we can at least verify the details? You keep popping up with tales of stories you've written or people you've interviewed, but there's never any way to verify any of your facts.

As to the rest of your comment, I fail to see the point and much of what you present only raises more problematics. Did the woman you say you interviewed have her HIV-treatment stopped? Don't you think that's at least problematic? Would you want any of your treatments stopped if you went to jail? The fact that she did not elect to have complete surgery does NOT mean she was not a transgender person. And transitioning is NOT an entirely elective procedure; for a lot of people it's an essential part of their lives. That's kinda proven by the fact that some states, by your own admission, have stated that hormone therapy must continue.

Where is the proof that she and the "few" you refer to as well purposely committed ""petty crimes" in order to obtain a year or two of gratis medical treatment." Seriously? You expect us to swallow this salaciously written and flimsy story about how she APPARENTLY "told the psychiatrist one of her plans when she was finally released was to make "he/she" films." And to expect that we will now believe that there's some tremendous epidemic of trans-identified folk just busting to get into prisons because of the wonderful Canadian-style health care that's available to them? For real?

Stop the presses, everyone! It's a vast trans-wing conspiracy - ALL trans folk are criminals and they're ALL determined to get into jail where they can have some fabulous, wonderful hormone therapy and amazing, safe surgery at the hands of top notch doctors and surgeons! With restful spa treatments as they recover afterwards.

As to the rest, Alex, I and others have addressed the issue of criminality and drugs. I think we're done with that point. In fact, Alex has directly addressed your point already, so let's not beat that dead horse. As to any more stories you resurrect, please provide links and more discernible proof if you're going to impugn an entire community.

Good night, all.

Sorry, Yasmin, but my career was ending due to health reasons just as the internet was morphing from AOL and Compuserve to Earthlink; also, being free-lance for the majority of my career, my agent sold my material to various outlets.

The story of Diane, though, was not just covered by me. It was extensively covered by all media in the Bay Area since she was the first person charged under California's then-new HIV "informed contact" law. And, as a matter of fact, her AZT was stopped for almost a month when she was first incarcerated. It took a court order (when "Necessities and More," as well as the "ARIS Project" - two now defunct AIDS outreach programs in Santa Clara County - threatened to sue Santa Clara County on Diane's behalf.

The housing of gay men in Santa Clara County's Department of Corrections became a "cause" for me when my roommate (yes, just my roommate) was arrested on an outstanding warrant for a failure to appear on a previous charge of disturbing the peace. He was arrested on the Friday of a Memorial Day Weekend; he did not get to court for arraignment until Thursday. For the entire period of time, he was in a maximum security lock down module; the other 23 cells in that module housed members of the Hispanic gang, the Surenos. Of the other 23 inmates, 12 were facing murder or attempted murder charges, the others were all charged with other violent crimes.

But, Yasmin, no matter how you wish to view it, the facts of the woman about whom Alex has written can be distilled to:

1. The jurisdiction in which she committed her crime classifies persons according to the birth genitalia; and,

2. She engaged in activity which any third grader knows is illegal, and any literate eighth grader knows carries a hefty prison term; and,

3. Transsexualism is still classified as a mental illness - treatment does not have to include transitioning.

Do I think her treatment is "right"? No. Personally, I believe if she's on a course of treatment, then that treatment should continue. I recognize, however, that it is entirely the state Department of Corrections in which the woman is imprisoned who has the authority to make that call.

I can't help but be reminded of the old Baretta theme (which is pretty ironic, if you contrast the theme with Robert Blake's subsequent choices in life): "Don't do the crime if you can't do the time."

And, unfortunately, for this woman part of "doing the time" is a regression of her medical treatment.

Eric;
This was explained to me by a psychiatrist who transitioned, and I found it helpful.
Yes, for the transexual, transitioning is absuolutely necessary, as opposed to some other forms of gender variance. Stopping hormones creates susbtantial psychiic discomfort, something that she called dysphoric imperative, that can lead to suicide.

You are conflating transsexuality with other trans-forms of gender variance. They are not all the same

Maureen,

All I've stated, repeatedly, is that in the state in which Santamaria finds herself incarcerated, the state's Department of Corrections, obviously, has a policy concerning transitioning transsexuals that they are following.

I've also stated, repeatedly, Santamaria is going to need some outside advocacy willing to fight for her to have the situation changed.

Wolfgang E. B. Wolfgang E. B. | January 5, 2010 3:21 PM

"Don't do the crime if you can't do the time?" In a perfect world--fine. I have no problem with the concept. In OUR world, it's a little more complicated. Many trans people who get involved in drugs and sex work do so because they feel they have no other options (or, in some cases, they really DO have no other options).

Discrimination against trans people in jobs and housing can drive a person into illegal forms of employment. Some trans teens get kicked out onto the street by religulous parents. Too young to obtain legal employment, it's easy for them to wind up in the black market trade. These are just two of many examples of how people wind up "doing the crime."

It's easy for a middle class, college educated person to sit in his ivory tower and judge the lives of those less fortunate, especially if you've never experienced homelessness or prolonged joblessness, or seriously been faced with the kinds of decisions that the desperate and destitute are forced to make.

If only the reality of criminal behavior was so starkly black-and-white. Adding to what Wolfgang said, I recommend you check out this video: http://www.universityofsantamonica.edu/USMVideos/Freedom_to_Choose.html

No one deserves to GET medical care because they're in prison, either.

Agreed. Everyone deserves to get basic medical care.

But since prisoners have a hard time getting medical care elsewhere (since they can't work for a Fortune 500 company at the same time) and are reduced to a child-like dependence on the government, someone's going to have to provide that treatment.

If we think that costs too much money, the solution of just not putting so many people in prison is always available. We imprison around 4 times the percentage of our population as the world on the whole does, and more now than ever in our history. Perhaps not all these people need to be in prison? The crime rate isn't 4 times higher in other industrialized countries, and yet they imprison fewer people and give them shorter sentences.

Wolfgang E. B. Wolfgang E. B. | January 5, 2010 3:27 PM

62% of our nation's prisoners are in for non-violent drug offenses.

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | January 5, 2010 7:59 AM

I agree with this absolutely. But prisons are also known for drug distribution. With a history of meth in her background a drying out period would be of great help to her. It is the drug issue that is important here.

"OK so far nothing wrong with this. she made a choice to break the law and now is paying the penalty."

Except she was put in solitary confinement specifically for being transgender. Read the article:

"Officials at Central Virginia Regional Jail said they had initially placed Maria Benita Santamaria in solitary confinement because they feared she would be raped by male inmates."

"Solitary confinement is the second worst punishment we dole out in the US for a reason - it's torture that drives people crazy:"

She's at risk, so let's torture her.

Your entire perspective in this thread, Midtowner, seems to be based on the idea that a criminal deserves whatever is coming to her, no matter what the crime, no matter what the punishment.

All I can say is that that mentality is needlessly cruel and completely unproductive, but there's really no arguing with someone who holds to it. It's not supported by logic and reason, so logic and reason can't argue against it.

Dawn Storrud | January 5, 2010 8:39 AM

The Deputy Superintendent said her treatment was no different than that of inmates in punitive lockdown.
That is exactly the point if no other is acknowledged. She was being punished for being transsexual, not for her crime and not for any additional in prison misdemeanor.

Well, this sure puts things into perspective, doesn't it? Was the prisoner in question asked how she defines herself? From the way she is described in the article it would seem to me she is transsexual. And, what I mean by that is not that she is a "transsexual prisoner" but that she is a person who is transsexual (for lack of a better word). It doesn't seem likely, however, that she will be able to have surgery any time soon.

What a tragic situation! Just how necessary are "T" words, anyway? I would bet she would just be happy to be respected as a woman and not have to resort to drug dealing to make that a possibility. That would mean funding a medical solution rather than propping up the prison industrial complex, I suppose.

I think this sizes up the situation succinctly. Women go to women's prisons, transgender women go to men's prisons. I don't know where transgender men go but wonder if they would want to go to the men's prison rather than a woman's prison.

How do I end this thought? I don't believe in simplistic notions of "core gender identity". I believe in biological realities, some of which are only apparent to the person living them, interacting with their environment in very complex ways; the way it does for everyone in their own unique way.

How does one prove where one belongs, however, when one does not have the means? By the same token, how are men to be kept out of women's prisons? How deep does the proof have to be that one is actually someone who should be a woman who belongs in a woman's prison or a man who belongs in a man's prison? Where would the cops who found Stella Walsh in the Super Market parking lot have put her?

Why are there so many prisons, anyway?

Wolfgang E. B. Wolfgang E. B. | January 5, 2010 3:49 PM

Edith wrote, "I don't know where transgender men go but wonder if they would want to go to the men's prison rather than a woman's prison."

I can't speak for all transmen, but personally, I'd feel safer in the women's prison. I'd undoubtedly be raped in the men's--they'd be unable to resist a man with a front door. But that really wouldn't matter because being forced off of testosterone while I still have ovaries would be a living hell, far worse than the repeated rapes. My brain didn't run right on a female hormone balance. I would seriously consider suicide in that situation.

Hi Wolfgang,

I wouldn't want to go to any prison.

You wrote:

". . . being forced off of testosterone while I still have ovaries would be a living hell, far worse than the repeated rapes. My brain didn't run right on a female hormone balance. I would seriously consider suicide in that situation."

All I can think of is what happened to Alan Turing.

Wolfgang E. B. Wolfgang E. B. | January 6, 2010 7:08 PM

No, I wouldn't want to go to prison either. I'd like to believe I have absolute control over avoiding it, but I've been around enough to know that life isn't that simple. Not only can I never be 100% certain that I'll always make the right choice in a given situation, not everyone who is convicted of a crime is actually guilty of one.

Alan Turing--Yes. A sad case of despicable human cruelty. I believe he's in a much better place now.

Thanks for posting this, Alex. I sent the link to the story to a group here that I'm a part of, one that's working on the issue of hate crimes legislation, prisons, and what happens to queers in prison. It never ceases to amaze me that the very community that stands to suffer the most in prison, the LGBTQ community, also feels that overly punitive measures and penalty enhancements are actually the way to increase the "protection" we feel we need.

The story demonstrates the failure of U.S drug laws, as you've amply pointed out. It also points to the failure of a prison system which has deteriorated into nothing more than a catch-and-imprison hellhole where prisoners are faced with threats to their lives if they deviate from the standard model. Given how easy it is to be defined as non-normative within prison, transgender prisoners often suffer the most brutality and they're usually also the ones most likely to be targeted by cops in the first place. This story reminds me of Victoria Arellano's sad case; she was a transgender immigrant who died as a result of the worst kind of neglect:

http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/commentary/la-op-hernandez1-2008jun01,0,3747284.story

Let's hope that Santamaria's situation never approaches those depths.

I have no doubt that a desperately-seeking-normativity segment of the gay community will callously turn its back on such prisoners with the usual line: "If you do the crime, do the time." How easily they forget that being gay alone was once grounds for imprisonment and/or heinous forms of reparative "therapy." If the average gay man were hauled into prison today for the simple fact of being gay, he would be guaranteed a quick and horrible prolonged (think rape and assault) death given the conditions that exist therein. If he had AIDS, forget it. The gays themselves would be in favour of denying him medications. A great many of my HIV-positive friends, gay and straight, are usually reluctant to engage in civil disobedience protests, like anti-war actions, because they know that they'll lose access to medications. The same is true for ANYONE who needs to be on any medications, by the way. Civil disobedience trainings always emphasise that people on medications should absolutely not engage in the same. And that's just the fear of what happens in the holding cell, even before being charged with anything.

Of course, we forget that being gay/queer/trans and poor is still a crime in this country - as is being poor, period. But then, we're so busy denying that gays are anything but happy, "law-abiding" middle-class gays that we'd like to forget poverty and the conditions that drive some to what gets classified as "illegal" behaviour - unless, of course, we want to go on about how poverty can be overcome by marriage. And we'd like to forget that "sodomy" was criminal until as recently as 2003.

Couple all that with the fact that the U.S. prison system today - unlike that, say, of the 1970s - is a one-way ticket to nowhere because of the massive cuts to prison education and training programs, and you get the formation of a massive, powerless, and invisible underclass forgotten by most.

I know your a huge advocate for the "gay/queer/trans and poor" and how you love to disparage the middle class gays (let alone the rich one's), but you know, not everyone is a victim. We do have choices in this country and have for quite some time. You and your ilk want to change the world so bad you forget how to actually live in it and succeed with it being the way it is. Yes it needs to change, but its going to change slowly, so while your raging against the world, take some time and responsibility for your self. She needs to take responibility for herself, they're have been countless numbers of Transgendered who have overcome horrible.. HORRIBLE.. obstacles to make a life for themsleves. Struggling against insurmountable odds to be happy, whole and complete. They may have had to let their facial hair grow back for awhile because they made bad mistakes, but by god, they decided to make something out of themselves so it doesnt happen again...

I'll ignore the needlessly petty and personal rants embedded in your comment and just focus on this:

"Struggling against insurmountable odds to be happy, whole and complete."

When did prison become a Hallmark movie? Do you know ANYTHING about the current state of prisons?

And those, like Arellano who couldn't become "happy, whole and complete" are just to blame for their deaths, right? If Santamaria gets transferred to a general population facility where she gets raped, it's all her fault, right? Oh, but wait, she actually preferred to be placed in the general population - even when faced with the possibility of rape facing her - because solitary was so tortuous, so anything that happens to her is just her fault.

I'll reiterate: Feel free to call on me and my "ilk" if you ever find yourself in this situation and are hard pressed to find anyone who will defend your basic rights. When that happens, remember, it will be because statements like yours have helped pave the way for a prison system where your basic rights as a human being are automatically stripped away simply because you broke a law.

And if you're going to keep responding, address the issues raised here without personal pettiness. For a start, try answering Sas's question below: Are other prisoners denied their medication? Here's a variation of that question: What do you have to say about the fact that she is clearly undergoing *treatment?* What would you say if people with HIV/AIDS were denied their medications? If you feel that hormone therapy is not treatment, what's your rationale for saying so? We've already established that she's not simply undergoing cosmetic treatment but a medical one. Or, as Sas writes above: "Forcing her to stop treatment is going to cause medical problems and mess with her physiology, and that's definitely a cruel and unusual punishment (a cis person who committed the same crime would not suffer physiological problems, so it is injust to force that onto her)."

What's your response to that?

And if you *can't* answer those questions, just don't respond. And stop changing the subject.

Ok, solitary confinement is used for a number of reasons, in this case to protect the inmate. You couldnt put her in the male population becuse of rape, extortion, murder, etc... You can't put her in a female population because of rape, extoration , etc... I don't condone it but don't hate me because its true.


As far a medical necissity,where was the medicine coming for to begin with. The sytem (albeit corrupt) cannot give her medication if it is'nt deemed medically necessary, and if she we're getting it off the street and not legally or thru a medical professional then the state NO matter how much the should or you/we would want them to cannot just give them the medicine. Come on think about it... I'ts just not going to happen.

So we need to look at this another way. It's not torture in this case but a saftey concern, they can't give her hormone therapy because at this juncture it's not a proven medical necissity..

It sucks... but if she didnt do the crime then it wouldnt be happening.


A cis person committing the same crime would not be receiving the same punishments she is. So you need to drop the "she deserves it for committing a crime" garbage.

What on earth makes you say that it's not a "proven medical necessity", when the whole medical community says otherwise?

The APA, the AMA, WPATH...

Even those few medics who deny the necessity for religious reasons do not deny the fact that those without it kill themselves at alarming rates, and that all suffer permanent physiological and psychological damage, sometimes fatal. They just don't see the necessity despite this.

The major argument made BY WISCONSIN PRISON MEDICS against the Wisconsin "Inmate Sex Change Prevention Act" which denied prisoners hormones, was that the costs of dealing with the suicide attempts, psychological and even physical damage caused greatly exceeded the rwo dollars a day that hormones cost. That the funerals alone cost more than the medication. Their over-extended budgets were suffering as the result.

But it was decided by the Wisconsin legislature that they'd rather pay more in taxes in order to see some inmates die a lingering death, and others have permanently damaged bodies and minds.

This is all on the public record, in court transcripts.

"Earlier, Kevin Kallas, a psychiatrist and mental health director for Wisconsin's prisons, testified he opposed the law banning hormones.

Besides in federal prisons, hormones are given in all of the Midwestern states surveyed by the Department of Corrections, he said. Kallas called hormones a "medically necessary" treatment in some, though not all, cases.

Kallas said patients who are taken off hormones typically need counseling, drugs and hospital stays instead, suicide treatments that are more expensive than the hormones, which cost $675 to $1,600 a year. Kallas said he did not know of any other medical treatment that the state Legislature has banned in prisons."

HRT is a medical necessity in all cases where the patient has been on hormones for more than a few weeks previously.

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | January 5, 2010 1:53 AM

Zoe, I am certainly glad you jumped in on this because you are one of the few who will not berate me for asking (what I think) is an obvious question.

I also believe you might well know the answer. The effect of HRT on an individual is affected by the use of meth amphetamines in a positive way, a negative way, or not at all?

It is a given that the use of meth is horribily destructive period. Is it also destructive of the previous HRT as well? That is the crux of this to me. With no future HRT until her release SHE WILL BE A HEALTHIER INDIVIDUAL upon release than she would be otherwise? I would certainly guess that she would be.

Are we arguing here about nothing otherwise? It would seem that the prisons should have a LGBT wing. Now as to ten POUNDS of product...her goal was to supply and addict others for profit to herself so she has made others her victim it would seem. How many violent crimes are committed to obtain the drugs she sold?

As a note, there are no studies to indicate the effect of meth on HRT.

So the question in that part cannot be answered.

However, regarding the healthier individual point: without treatment, the answer is no, she will not be healthier.

WHich is the point that many people are trying to make here.

Treatment is not elective, not "if you feel like it". Lack of treatment causes immense suffering and difficulty, and results in poorer health overall.

It's like not treating a tooth that's decaying. You don't "have" to do it, so you could say its elective. As it abscesses and recedes, slowly rots away, it creates additional health risks for the person that aren't immediately visible or even thought about by most people until, of course, the day comes when it kills them.

So no, it does not make her healthier to deny treatment, it actually makes her personal issues worse.

Toni,

You state:

...treatment is not 'elective'...

Unfortunately, though, it is considered to be such by many - including many in the medical profession. In Santamaria's case, the state has determined the treatment she was receiving, on the outside, was elective.

She is going to have to find some advocate, or advocacy group, to file suit on her behalf, and hope a state court finds in her favor.

Unfortunately, since she has been without treatment for six years, the state could (and probably would) argue that any deleterious effects Santamaria would suffer due to cessation of the hormone treatments have already occurred. I would doubt a state court would find in her favor simply on that point.

Yes, I know that to you, to me and to most educated people the treatments should never have been stopped, but the simple fact is... they were. They (the Corrections Department) have a policy, and that's what was followed.

Merely pointing out the obvious does not make someone a bigot and I, for one, resent your characterization of "two people" as such (since my postings seem to be one of "two" that are attracting responses, I don't feel I'm remiss in believing you were referring to myself and Midtowner, or myself and Daniel.

As I said in a posting: Do I believe she should have been/should be receiving her treatments? Yes, I do. But the reality is she isn't, and hasn't been for the better part of a decade, now.

Professionals familiar with trans-people and the variations on the theme are aware that for transsexuals, when the imperative arises, it is absolutely a necessity as are hormones.

This "dysphoric imperative" experience must be simply awful.

Hey, you know, it's illegal to openly be gay in the Military, Eric.

Surely that means, by the same extent, since military commanders consider it a choice, that being gay is one.

It is not elective. Professionals note this with fairly robust points, and that doesn't mean that judges caught between the balance of perceived funding and personal prejudice are right.

Toni,

Don't tell me. You've got so many contacts, and have been involved outreach programs for drug addicts, transsexuals and who knows what else - all according to your own statements - then why aren't you on the phone now attempting to find out who this "Santamaria" person is... where she's incarcerated... determining the veracity of the statements made in Alex's posting... and linking Santamaria with outside advocates?

As I've said: I, personally, believe her treatments should have continued.

Your viewpoint is severely skewed. For you, the important issue is here is a transsexual, imprisoned for 6 years, who has been denied her hormones to aid in her transition, and those hormone treatments are a necessary medical treatment.

I do NOT disagree with you.

What I have been pointing out, though, is that for the judicial system, her medical treatments are NOT the core issue and, as other posters have pointed out, those treatments have probably worked against her, vis a vis sentencing and housing.

For the judicial system, the only issue was a person found guilty of possession with intent to distribute; that possession was of 10 pounds of crystal meth, with a street value of (fill-in-the-blank).

Rightly or wrongly, some drug offenses carry mandatory sentence recommendations. She was, I'm sure, sentenced to a term within the limits of those recommendations.

After being sentenced, a criminal is transferred to the Department of Corrections of that jurisdiction; at that point, the Department of Corrections makes all decisions for that inmate, including where that innate is housed and what medical treatment that inmate receives.

In most states, there is very little oversight of its Department of Corrections. Unless flagrant violations of the law occur, the Department of Corrections is able to do just about anything it wants to with the inmates charged to them.

That's why... and, here, I'll repeat it again...

If the circumstances of Santamaria's treatment in prison are true, she NEEDS outside advocacy to have those circumstances changed, not to mention to protect her from the very real possibility of official "backlash" directed towards her, should an advocate be successful in getting those circumstances changed.

So quit tearing into those of us, Toni, who are merely recounting the presumed reality of Santamaria's situation.

You, supposedly, have the contacts. Drop Alex an e-mail, getting more particulars concerning Santamaria, then get on the phone and work your network.

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | January 5, 2010 7:33 AM

Antonia, we do not know one another and my request was made to Zoe, but in reading your piece I think you overlook that the average life expectancy of a meth abuser is five years. You do not need to believe me. Just look it up. Google it as a fossil like myself would.

I would add that my question was if she was using meth (as well as selling it) while taking HRT what is the chance that the addition of the two was harming her more?

It is a particularly difficult drug to cease using and I reiterate that...compared to what she would have known without incarceration...she will be healthier in six years time than she would be otherwise. She has a greater chance to be *alive*

Hi Robert :)

I'm well aware of the issues surrounding Meth.

I was house manager and chair of the board for This Is H.O.W., and am still very much involved with them (http://thisishowhome.org/).

In a previous life, I was an undercover narcotics investigator, as well.

As I noted, there's no study presently to indicate if HRT and meth have any effect on each other. Given the mechanisms of action, an educated guess would suggest no (and, indeed, my personal experience has been that they do not have any impact on each other), but there's not enough information.

What you are failing to realize, however, is that for many trans people who seek transition, *death* is preferable.

Now, consider this carefully -- they would often rather be dead than be without the treatment. And they go to great lengths to achieve such.

There is a stereotype about the large number of former servicemembers -- we joined the army and marines and such to get killed.

Indeed, in a substantial number of cases (based on what little we have thus far, about 65% of the time), the cause of addiction is lack of treatment.

Handle the need for treatment, and you can actually reduce the need for the addiction. Even meth, even heroin. Compare that 65% figure with the success rate of MA or other AA clones (and I'm familiar with them as a result of the above), where the success rate is barely above 10%.

So no, she would not be healthier. Indeed, she would be much more unhealthy, significantly more prone to relapse, and more significantly likely to engage in behavior which will result in her death.

Lastly, its irrelevant.

She is a citizen of the United States being denied a right to medical care as a form of cruel and unusual punishment.

Because she is trans.

That's what matters.

But apparently she's much easier to throw away because she committed a crime. Meanwhile, Bernie Madoff gets life prolonging medical treatment far in excess of what she's asking for.

Well, Toni,

It could be said that Santamaria's situational membership is one of being a prison inmate, that prison inmates are housed (and medicated) as the prison officials see fit, and because of Santamaria's situational membership she should simply accept that, become comfortable with it, and quit complaining about it.

Or does the dynamic of situational membership that you expounded upon a few weeks ago not apply here? And if not... why not?

Explain how Santamaria's situational membership is any different from your repeated attempt to define gay men and lesbian woman as also being "trans persons" (based on society's overall view of gender variance).

Then again, Toni, don't bother. Your reply will, I'm sure, simply follow your usual pattern of emphasizing the "trans" issues of the situation and ignoring all the rest - it's increasingly evident that's all that's important to you.

Just as your analogy with the Armed Forces goes: If a member of the Armed Forces is determined to be homosexual, there is punitive action taken against that homosexual which (believe it or not) can include imprisonment in a military stockade, as well as a dishonorable discharge - which could have a punitive effect on that soldier's life concerning future employment and income.

It is OUTSIDE ADVOCACY that has changed the "gays in the military" policy to what it is today; it is that OUTSIDE ADVOCACY that will be the major player in further refining/possibly abolishing that policy in the future.

It is that state's Department of Corrections that has determined the only way to ensure the safety of Santamaria is to have her in lockdown; just as, I'm sure, it's that prison's policy to house informants in the same Administrative Segregation Unit.

Only OUTSIDE ADVOCACY is going to have a chance to get the policy/situation changed.

Where do you get this:

"The sytem (albeit corrupt) cannot give her medication if it is'nt deemed medically necessary, and if she we're getting it off the street and not legally or thru a medical professional then the state NO matter how much the should or you/we would want them to cannot just give them the medicine. Come on think about it... I'ts just not going to happen."

???

Your willingness to criminalise every single aspect of her life is abundantly clear. You can't provide any rationale for why she should be treated the way she's being treated, so now you've begun to invent crimes committed by her?

And even if her hormone treatments were bought illegally (a common occurence, given the prohibitive cost for many), SO WHAT? They still constitute medical *treatment.* You could argue that people on other treatments don't get their medications illegally, but then you'd be ignoring the fact that THAT'S the problem: hormone treatments like hers are not considered vital or necessary. In short: You're essentially bent on criminalising someone for her condition (and this is not the place for me to get into any arguments over bio-essentialism or gender as a "condition" - that's for another day), not for her crime, and in that you're exactly replicating what the prison system is doing to her. No matter what, you're determined that she is a "criminal," through and through. You'll even make up crimes if need be.

I'll leave you to untangle the fine mess you've wound around yourself. At this point, faced with the logical inconsistencies in your arguments, you're reduced to making things up.

As for the rest, especially about solitary confinement as torture, I think Zoe Brain's comment below more than amply addresses your points.


Yhere is a new york case on point in this matter that was settled through arbitration after a series of hearings involving a defendant named Synthia China-Blast.

She obtained hormones on the street from a NYC supplier in the "underground" referred to as "the Dane."

She was incarcerated for murder; she was placed into special housing sans hormones.

She filed a civil rights violation; she was examined by a forensic psychiatrist attatched to the NY State Supreme Court and the Department of Correction ultimately gave way on the issue.

The opinion of the forensic psychiatrist pointed out that a majority of economically disadvantaged trans-people obtained hormones through extra-legal means; the doctor felt that the commonality fo the practice was su great that a lack of formal treatment could not be used to deny the patient continued treatment

Counsel for the plaintiff was Anna Marie Richmond, Esq. of Buffalo, NY.

"You couldnt put her in the male population becuse of rape, extortion, murder, etc... You can't put her in a female population because of rape, extoration , etc... I don't condone it but don't hate me because its true."

Wow.

The second half set me off, but the first half was just totally off the wall.

Have you any clue about which you speak? Or is it all the same sort of overhyped outside the pen bs that's already sexist and homophobic you are spouting?

No, Toni, it's obvious you do not know the statistics.

Transsexuals are raped in prison. Repeatedly. As are gay men.

What do you think? The people housed in prisons are simply persons who lost their way... that prison is there simply to aid them in "getting their act together" so they can go out and rejoin the real world?

Even General Population in most prisons is a brutal, violent place.

There's an ongoing television series called "Lockup" that airs weekends on MSNBC. Why don't you watch an episode or two? How about you get your cookies out to San Quentin in the next couple of days (since you're in the East Bay), and ask to speak with the intake counselors, huh? They're located in a little mobile office in the yard of West Block.

West Block is the "intake yard," where an inmate is housed for the first six weeks of his incarceration (for the first two weeks on 24-hour lockdown) to determine how well an inmate can mesh with the prison population.

The emphasis, right from the start, is one of how well an incoming inmate can mesh with the social/political structure that has been imposed upon the prisons population by members of that same population.

It's not some collection of fifth- and sixth- grade classrooms where everyone has every moment of their day occupied with some beneficial activity from which they can gain knowledge... it's a bunch of criminals who have nothing to do with their time.

East Bay?

Eric, you must have me confused with someone else.

I live in Phoenix. Arizona.

Nowhere near the way too cold 95% of the year realm of San Francisco.

As for the rest, well, apparently, I still know more than you do on the treatment of trans prisoners. Enough, for example, to know that at the best, your generalizations fail to account for specific levels of confinement and particulars of oversight.

Please, try again though.

It might help you to understand why your call for an outside agency is, well, a bit off as well.

I should probably take the time to bring a few trans prisoners over here. But triggers galore in this thread, in particular the way everyone focuses on the crime and not the actual problem, would likely turn them off.

Here's an unpleasant thought, Eric:

Go out an advocate for trans people.

Really. Go out and talk about them.

You can do it, of course. But you will wonder why it is that trans people will say stuff like "why is a cisperson advocating for us?".

I happen to think its what we need more of -- cis people, advocating for us.

Because then they will find that to advocate for us, they have to understand us better. And the only way to understand us better is to literally put aside every preconception or past stereotype you've ever heard, as things are both worse and better, at the same time, than people realize or are aware of.

You're correct, Toni. I did confuse you with someone else; another person with whom I was engaged in spirited debate in another thread. The confusion was made even easier by your Phoenix location... that other poster was living in the San Francisco East Bay area, where I lived for the majority of my adulthood. From October, 2002, until June of 2008, Bill and I lived in Glendale, AZ.

So, it should be even easier for you to find out, first hand, just how transsexuals are treated by law enforcement officials once incarcerated - simply jump on the new light rail, head downtown to the Wells Fargo Building, ask to see Sheriff Joey's liaison officer, and find out for yourself the protocol concerning the housing and continued medical treatment of transsexuals.

I don't think you're going to be surprised by what you find, though, Toni, since you already know the draconian measures Joey-boy takes in his view of law enforcement.

(For those who don't know, Sheriff Joe Arpaio considers himself to be "the toughest Sheriff in America." In his viewpoint, jail is meant to be punitive, period. Inmates sentenced to county jail time - six months or less, according to Arizona state law - are housed in huge circus tents on tarmac, with few fans and no air conditioning. They are forced to work on road crews in temperatures frequently exceeding 105-degrees in the summer. They receive one hot meal a day, and one boxed lunch consisting of one cold cut sandwich and one piece of fruit. Certain prisoners are, for lack of a better term, tortured by restraint devices that have been outlawed by the State Legislature, but are still employed by Sheriff Arpaio because he has determined their usage to be "effective." In the six years we lived there, five wrongful death suits were head; the county lost all but one of the suits. The fifth was actually decided in the county's favor only because the person who sued had no legal standing to sue.

Detractors of Sheriff Joe are frequently harassed by the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office. In direct violation of the First Amendment, Sheriff Joe arrested the two publishers of The Phoenix New Times, and demanded a listing giving the IP addresses of everyone who had visited the paper's website, as well as the http addresses of the pages visited by those persons immediately prior to, and after, those surfers viewed the New Times website.

Under the previous president, Sheriff Joe was given limited powers of enforcement by ICE; it then became Joey-boy's cause celebre to have huge "sweeps" of sections of Maricopa County, literally arresting anyone seemingly Hispanic who did not speak fluent English or, if they did, did not have sufficient proof, on their person, that they were a legal citizen of the United States. ICE has since revoked that authority from Sheriff Arpaio but he's continued the sweeps; his stance is he is merely enforcing existing laws - even though those laws are of a federal nature.

Just last month, one of Sheriff Arapio's deputies was caught, red-handed, removing sheaths of paper from a defense attorney's briefcase, copying them, and giving them to the prosecuting attorney - and the person who caught that deputy, in the act, was the judge of the case. When the deputy was ordered imprisoned by the judge on a contempt charge, the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office staged a 3-day "sick in" for court related duties, bringing the work of the criminal courts to a halt in Maricopa County for those three days.

Additionally, anytime anyone in an "official capacity" has begun any type of oversight of either the Sheriff or, to a lesser extent, Andrew Thomas, Maricopa County Attorney General, Joe and Andy will file criminal conspiracy charges against that official - though the charges never actually state what crime is meant to be committed via the conspiracy, nor whom the other conspirators might be.)

Well, Eric, I won't argue with you about Joe's predilections and such, but I will note that Joe's *county Jails* (which are significantly different from prisons operated by the state and federal governments) do not house trans people in isolation unless it is requested by the inmate, and that, probably to a great deal of surprise to you, most of those trans people do not "suffer" some of the things described.

LOL Indeed, as an individual who once spent more than her fair share of time in the gentle attentiveness of Joe's care, they often have a better situation that you might realize.

Then again, I work with them, I have a great many of my close friends (including the founder of TIH and the clients and even some roommates) who all know the score quite well.

Which is not to say that such stuff does not happen, just that using it as a blanket is not correct.

I've known parole officers who mistreat trans people far worse than any jailer under Joe ever did.

Which sorta sucks to say since Joe's a total a--wipe on so many levels...

So, Joe's knuckles aren't dragging on the ground 24/7. Frankly, that surprises me - especially in the well-documented light of how he treats women in the county jail, not to mention juxtaposing a supposedly "trans" enlightened Joey-boy against a local Department of Corrections in the San Francisco Bay Area.

That doesn't change the fact, Toni, that in Santamaria's jurisdiction, another standard is applied, and Santamaria is being housed, and treated, in a manner that Department of Corrections has deemed appropriate.

Again, I personally do not agree with the actions of the Virginia Department of Corrections but it is going to take outside advocacy to intervene on Santamaria's behalf for any change to be effected... especially at this late stage of her incarceration.

Eric,

You've consistently stated outside agency will bring about change.

My experience is the opposite, my study of the situation shows the opposite.

I may be wrong, of course, as its always possible I'm wrong.

Yes, the system itself needs to change -- however, what outside agency is going to be able to have any impact on that change?

Not a rhetorical question. THe only outside agency that has any significant impact on the matter in question is the court system, which only kicks in after multiple levels of effort within the system.

As an example, here in AZ, a State Prison System gal named Kat Barden had the same fight. Indeed, a slightly more difficult one, as she was not already on hormones prior to incarceration. She also didn't have a drug conviction, but instead had one that people emotionally perceive as far worse: she was a sex offender.

Sex offenders are the lowest of the low, in case you weren't aware. They are the particular class of persons most subject to rape and abuse in prisons, and the prison system (in this particular case a federal prison under state operation governed by a thick stew of regulations at both state and federal level that occasionally conflict) deals with them accordingly.

It took Kat four years and six tries, and throughout all that time, her fight was watched from the outside, and people *tried* to help her. Even people within the system.

It took a court order to finally change things -- and when it did, it changed it for all trans inmates in state prisons (but not a--wipe Joe's jails, and he's still knuckle dragging big time, btw -- just now its all tied up in he and Tom F---wit's fight with the county and his racially motived pursuit of latina/o citizens and non-citizens such as my children).

Any other effort from the outside is pretty much not going to make any difference. Perhaps you may not realize the degree of utter and total helplessness that transfolk are in, and while my bias may be in that direction, it is because I'm intimately familiar with that process.

For what its worth, I *have* contacted agencies and NGO's in the Virginia area that *might* be able to lend some support. But do not undereatimate the cause of the system's failure here:

The social understanding of the region.

Virginia is not a backwater by any means, but it still remains a bastion against progressiveness and it has usually been highly resistant to change (two notable exceptions happening in 1775 and 1789 under one of the most progressive leaders ever in the country).

These people still place prejudice over facts -- and as midtowner has demonstrated herein, this is not strictly based in sexual orientation.

Kat, btw, won her case, but never got her treatment. That had to wait until after she was out. And even then, it was another 5 months. I know, because I was the one who got them for her, after two months of trying to find housing for her and failing in the beginning so terribly she spent a few nights in a shelter here.

I've been unequivocal and unyielding with you because in order to create the proper sense of outrage, the only thing that needs to be said about this is that she should get her treatment.

Maria's treatment is the only factor that matters. If you want outside agency to have an impact, then become part of it, Eric, and simply say, unequivocally, that she needs that treatment and that there are no excuses, none, whatsoever for her not receiving it.

Because the issue is not one of transness. It is one of Rights recognized under the constitution, where no citizen so incarcerated shall be subject to cruel and unusual punishment.

She is a citizen, she is incarcerated, and her treatment has been cruel and unusual.

Anything else merely serves as justification for that treatment.

You can picket a prison. You cannot do a letter writing campaign. What you can do is write an article, even on a small blogging site, and make people aware of this simple situation, and then talk about it, constantly.

Amanda Simpson is getting more coverage than this. Bernie maddoff gets more coverage than this.

Leave the bullshit to the prison peeps. THey can argue points of trans ness and medical whatever.

THey cannot argue human rights.

Whatever your personal experience as an inmate of this monster, Antonia, his conduct and RSHA-like hold over the county, its leagl system and the reign of terror that he inflicts upon spanish speaking residents in general and particularly through his Geheime Staatspolizei 'Night and Fog' decree style sweeps and raids is a flagrant and disgusting perversion of the powers of a sherrif.

Arpaio is merely a plump and less educated version of Kaltenbrunner. I've seen his type, I've prosecuted his type. He is carrying on a racial war in America to the cheering of bigoted, ignorant fans.

On that basis, Midtowner, HIV meds ought to be denied in prison.

You really are an expert on gay men aren't you. Almost everything you post, slags off gay men in some way. Why the hate on for gay men?

You accused someone above for talking about drugs when the issue was trans woman in solitary. Now you have shifted the issue to big bad gay men again. You really have issues with gay men. If you hate them so much, why write about them?

Midtowner, no one is asking you to feel sorry for a criminal. The issue is that among women convicted of narcotics violations in Virginia, this woman is singled out for placement in a male prison, singled out for additional punishment of solitary confinement, singled out for dehumanizing verbal abuse, and singled out for denial of medical care for an endocrine deficiency and medical condition (recognized as such by the American Medical Association) -- all because of how she was born and not because of the crime she committed.

"Do the crime, do the time?" If you genuinely believe in accountability to the law, Midtown, I invite you join me in asking why the State of Virginia (along with many other states) is allowed to violate the eighth amendment with treatment that is so gratuitously cruel and unusual.

Being trans does not make Ms. Santamaria less than human.

No one ever suggested that she was less than Human, she was being treated the same as everyone else... You all are asking for special treatment because shes transgendered.

Are other prisoners denied their medication? If so, I think that's equally appalling.

No, all other prisoners are not put in solitary confinement. It is a punishment. No books. No writing materials. No playing cards.

It is exactly what they did in Devil's Island, and in POW camps in WW2 to prisoners who tried to escape. A few weeks was usually enough to break them. It's used in US prisons on only the most recalcitrant prisoners, and only for weeks, not months, at a time, because it causes permanent psychiatric damage.

Even the equivalent cells at the Lubyanka had windows during the Stalin regime. People can't confess at show trials if they've been reduced to complete catatonic insanity, which such treatment tends to do if prolonged.

The timeline is also relevant here.

She was kept in solitary like this for several months BEFORE TRIAL. Denied access to essential medication, and tortured, even though she'd been convicted of no crime.

She then pleaded guilty, getting in return a promise from a federal judge that she'd be moved out. Her sentencing was in December, after she'd been in solitary confinement since June.

But the Virginia authorities didn't comply with the Judge's recommendations, until another Judge ordered them to do so.

I humbly suggest that if you too had been put in solitary like this, and injected with cross-gendering hormones that would permanently alter your neurology and your physique, that you too might plead guilty - to the Kennedy Assassination, to the Reichstag fire, to anything in fact. Just to be put in a normal prison.

Did not think of the timeline. Thanks for pointing that out, Zoe.

Wolfgang E. B. Wolfgang E. B. | January 4, 2010 9:48 PM

This woman shouldn't be in prison in the first place. Our nation's drug laws are unconstitutional and need to be repealed.

This whole case just makes me seething mad.

I can always count on TPB for a hearty laugh. And Alex Blaze never disappoints. Let's start with the fact that he spews much bile denouncing the punishment this addict received for "carrying" some meth. Except that the article excerpts say nothing about addiction and make clear that she wasn't convicted of possession, but of trafficking.

Oh, and there's the fact that the drug involved wasn't pot or something similar to pot, but the highly destructive and addictive meth. Ten pounds of it. But don't let facts get in the way of a good Alex Blaze rant. Can we please bring back Ron Gold? People may find him objectionable, but at least he wasn't dim.

The rest of the post is a sob story about how a federal prison sentence is unpleasant. Good. It is supposed to be. That is the price of trying to poison other human beings for profit. No double standard for trans drug trafficking.

Every prisoner faces the issues that this person faced. You can get sent to a more restrictive facility than is really required for a whole host of reasons, including available prison space. If you are small or perceived as weak or are deemed vulnerable for any other reason, you might get stuck in a more restrictive environment, whether you are trans or not. It is not the BOP's obligation to put a convict in a facility that satisfies her preferences.

And since hormone treatment is not available for free on the outside, and many trans people who want the treatments can't get them or have to wait years to afford them, it makes no sense to deem it medically necessary on the inside. (I would have no objection to the treatments being available if she covered all costs involved.)

I really don't get what you're getting at, other than "drugs are really bad and prisons so obviously solve that problem I don't have to have any proof."

I mean, would you care to prove that her being in prison actually reduces the drug use of others, or is being a right-winger still a substitute for having to deal with reality? The US has 5% of the world's population and yet 20% of the world's prison population, and 550,000 people were imprisoned in the US in 1986 whereas 2.6 million are imprisoned today. Maybe all these people don't need to be in prison to keep us safe? Maybe we're just putting them in prison and treating them like shit to make ourselves feel better, bigger, and stronger, but it's actually doing nothing to help anyone?

But we all know where this concern for keeping nonviolent drug offenders in prison, in the worst conditions we can think of, is coming from. There are folks who just went through the whole bedding aisle at Wal-Mart last week because their bladders can't handle the thought that someone involved in a nonviolent drug offense is allowed to roam free. That's a crime against fabric. Would somebody please think of the cotton?

Rightwinger? Yeah, right. You know less about me than you do about drug policy or the facts relating to your own posts. BTW, real classy not to acknowledge factual errors in the original post.

Anyhoo, it is all well and good to use catch-phrases like "non-violent drug offense". But those phrases obscure serious differences in the offenses. Possession of a joint is one thing. Trafficking meth is something quite different. This isn't some right-wing conspiracy. For trafficking 10 pounds of meth, this person would be arrested and imprisoned in the Netherlands or, for that matter, anywhere else in the world. I guess the whole world isn't as smart or as moral as you, Alex.

BTW, for the record, I favor decriminalization of the sale or possession of soft drugs. But I am not so dim or so fanatical, as to ignore the differences between and among drug classes. Keep up the fight for meth legalization Alex. Makes as much sense as anything else you write here.

Sara, you come in here brandishing not much more than personal insults ("dim," etc.), so please don't start lecturing people on class. It's like Newt Gingrich lecturing people on the importance of traditional marriage.

You're not a right-winger. Great. I was using that term descriptively, since the only political beliefs I know about from you are:

1. People who commit a crime deserve whatever punishment they have coming to them, including messing with their sex hormones and solitary confinement.
2. Hormone therapy is an elective treatment, and the only reason the state shouldn't fund it is that it's a waste of money. (Although that might just be explained by your longing for Ronald Gold to return to Bilerico.)
3. Lefties are to be mocked for their "sob stories." I imagined Rush Limbaugh's famous impression of Michael J. Fox as I read that.

Somehow I got the impression that you're coming at this from the right. Don't know how.

As for the "factual errors," you bring up the idea that "trafficking" doesn't involve "carrying," which I find silly, and that drug trafficking doesn't have anything to do with drug addiction, which is kinda like saying that there's no connection between fish and water.

So, there, responses.

10 pounds of meth amphetamine isn't just a minor non-violent drug offense. It was trafficking that she plead to, wasn't it? Where trafficking goes, bullets are sure to follow. I've seen too many young men on crutches or in wheelchairs courtesy of a drug dealer's bullet.

Treat her with respect and attend to her medical needs. We need to treat all prisoners better. But it is punishment.

I think that our justice system, which is based on punishing people for crimes they commit instead of crimes we think they're going to commit, has been around long enough and has worked just fine and is worth sticking with. When the bullets fly, punish people for that, but punishing her for those bullets flying when there's no proof she was shooting anyone is like punishing a teacher for not doing good enough job and that led to students becoming criminals, or punishing the parents of an adult criminal because they didn't raise their kid right, etc.

I didn't say it was a "minor" crime, I said it was a "nonviolent" crime. And it wasn't directly violent, at least from the evidence what she was actually convicted on.

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | January 5, 2010 2:00 AM

Non violent? How many drug dealers have you fought to keep out of a neighborhood? The number of violent crimes related to obtaining money for drug use is substantial.

The manufacture of firearms is not an intrinsically violent act either, but the results of that manufacture and sale are available for anyone to see.

Why stop there? Vast numbers of people die in accidents caused by drunk driving, so let's begin preemptively locking up drivers. "On average someone is killed by a drunk driver every 45 minutes. In 2008, an estimated 11,773 people died in drunk driving related crashes—a decline of 9.8 percent from the 13,041 drunk driving related fatalities of 2007." That's according to Mothers Against Drunk Driving. I'm hardly the biggest supporter of the organisation, but, hey, if we're going to look at numbers and stretch the notion of cause and effect, we should at least go all the way.

The best minds and analysts out there have also proven that the "drug wars" and the needless penalising that goes along with it is part of a failed strategy and an attempt to shore up the prison industrial complex. But don't take my word for it:

http://www.counterpunch.org/achong1.html

For more, just type in "drug wars" into the CP search engine.

This doesn't mean that neighbourhoods don't face problems due to drug trafficking, but it's also perfectly reasonable to ask how and why we choose to police it the way we do - and how we got to this supposed stage in the first place.

To repeat Alex's words: "When the bullets fly, punish people for that, but punishing her for those bullets flying when there's no proof she was shooting anyone is like punishing a teacher for not doing good enough job and that led to students becoming criminals, or punishing the parents of an adult criminal because they didn't raise their kid right, etc."

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | January 5, 2010 7:55 AM

Vehicles can be a murder weapon, but no where near as much as ideas.

I forgot, all the drug dealers I have met were college students. None of them were violent. They did not come in to community meetings in my neighborhood and attempt to intimidate anyone. They did not beat a 13 year old senseless (his parents sent him to Puerto Rico to keep him safe for a year) a block from my home because he would not run drugs. They did not recruit in the local grade schools for drug runners. They did not intimidate children..."this is a victimless crime."

That's why I had Chicago police officers caution me about safety. Because this is such a victimless crime.

Yes, none of this is about drug violence. None of it is about the older gang members having minors do the dangerous stuff pre 18 if they live that long. Many people do not like the idea of waiting for "when the bullets fly." If you have ever been shot you would feel differently about this. Myself, I am still waiting for an answer to my question to Zoe above. I await learning something rather than indoctrination. If this offender had a five year life expectancy had she just continued on her merry way why do we think she would be less healthy after six years of no drugs?

Robert,

Drugs are ideas now?

Your questions to Zoe have been well answered by others already, from people who clearly know what they're talking about.

As for Chicago cops, you are talking about the cops in the same city that spawned John Burge, yes? A police force that prompted Chicago attorneys to actually testify in front of the UNITED NATIONS Special Rapporteur on Racism?

You don't have to read it anywhere, you can just watch the testimony.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=90dH2WOL34w

The point is simple: No one will deny that drug-related crimes and trafficking exists, but there's a great deal of highly intelligent work done to show that the drug wars are also in large part a domestic and geopolitical creation foisted upon us. But that, as you know, is ultimately a distraction from the issue at hand: Does she deserve to be safe and to be able to continue her treatment?

You've already received your answers to all the questions you posed. But you, like a couple of others, persist in asking the same questions over and over, as if pretending that no one has answered will... well, I'm not clear on what your game plan is, exactly (since your points are so phenomenally unclear) except to keep repeating a point for the sake of showing up and reiterating a conservative philosophy about how people who commit crimes don't deserve basic human rights.

Good day.

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | January 5, 2010 10:57 AM

Ideas as murder weapons seems more your area of expertise than mine. Drugs are not ideas, but wrong ideas can kill. Regarding John Burge, I think Chicago has made a bit of progress since 1991. One ignorant man does not a full police force make. Further, you have the full ability to ignore anything I write, or do you?

I would like to thank Antonia for her intelligent answer and reiterate that there should be a segregated wing for offenders or those awaiting trial who would suffer from abuse from other prisoners. Our people tend to die quickly in prison settings. Her first problem is drug use as going down that path is certain death. Her second problem is what caused her to deal in the first place. With regard to HRT treatment she should have an advocate, but look out for the Virginia state legislature. The rest of this is unfortunate hyperbole, if not just hype itself. Perhaps you will move to Virginia and advocate for her.

If my horrible conservatism includes a desire for severe gun control, drug and alcohol abuse programs (both within and outside of incarceration), protection of family victims of users and safe streets, parks and schools for children where bullets never fly...well, I must then be conservative indeed, compared to yourself of course.

I am sincerely sorry for this person's life and values that would permit her to participate in the poisoning of others. She needs treatment for her problems by order of severity and I would vote for drug treatment/counseling before anything else unless the HRT is shown to be needed for her general health and the state in which she committed her crime should recognize this. My reason for originally asking Zoe is that I trusted her to give a dispassionate response based upon research if any exists. Antonia has made it clear research does not exist, but her belief is that the withholding of HRT would be dangerous to this person.

I am sure the courts, legislature, doctors and media will draw their own (hopefully compassionate)conclusions.

Actually, Robert, the Chicago police force has probably got worse over the years. Here's a recent and very quick article that might clarify things a bit, and a relevant quote related to recent issues (recent, as in 2009): "It is not surprising that the Amnesty International used the high incidence rate of police brutality in Chicago to discredit it as a possible host of the 2016 Summer Olympic Games."

http://www.articlesbase.com/law-articles/police-brutality-haunts-chicago-1303564.html

Just to clarify things for people who might be wondering. The issue of police interests in "stopping violence" while it perpetuates the same via such cases as John Burge (whom most commentators describe as a symptom, not simply an aberration) is germane to the issue here - a skewed prison system that believes in eternal damnation and punishment (she trafficked, so she can just go to hell!) while perpetuating conditions of violence on the outside.

As for "severe gun control, drug and alcohol abuse programs (both within and outside of incarceration), protection of family victims of users and safe streets, parks and schools for children where bullets never fly..." - none of that is aided by the "war on drugs," and is in fact severely endangered by the same. Anyone who's really interested in reading more about how the drug war system works will, I know, go ahead and follow the links I provided. You cannot have both a corrupt, heartless, and violent system of incarceration and surveillance AND keep communities safe.

And if you keep responding, please do us a favour and stop with the surmises about my character - just respond to the points I make. I understand that your points are mostly untenable, which leaves you grasping for straws, but making personal comments isn't helping your case in the slightest.

I think all sides of the issue have been pretty well hashed out by now. For the rest, you and the others can carry on with your heartless commentaries disguised as advocacy for community welfare.

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | January 5, 2010 9:13 PM

Of course Ms. Nair. You are well known for never making a personal comment about anyone. A strict intellectual response always has been your trademark. This would include your demands of others that they provide documentation of their opinions on this very thread. As to untenable arguments and attitudes I am always up to debate and will confess I have learned as much as I have contributed to this discussion.

I am more favorably disposed to HRT therapy for this and any individual like her now than when beginning the read of this posting. But, of course, neither of us live in Virginia so this particular individuals solution lies in the state where she assisted in making money for the most violent and destructive elements in the world.

Some "non violent" and victimless crime.

As a note, it is not belief that withholding treatment is bad.

It is certainty.

For the first 60 years of the last century, the normative pattern was to treat such behavior in methods other than HRT. It still happens, today. Some of us were treated with Testosterone as children, in order to reduce the outward behaviors.

The AMA did not come to its position on treatment being essential (indeed, critical) without having a great deal of verified evidence to establish such.

*It* is the priority, with substance abuse treatment secondary and concomitant. As I note, without treatment for the trans issues, the substance abuse treatment is nigh certain to fail. Treat the trans stuff, and the substance abuse will be far less of a risk.

Again, not belief. It is not based on any irrational or unsubstantiated idea. It's concrete. And hyperbole or not, it was proven at the cost of thousands of lives.

No, not belief. Knowledge.

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | January 5, 2010 9:26 PM

Agreed with the proviso that no studies have been done on the interactions of meth and HRT. (that is why I said belief) I am sure that it has to be more than whether or not someone has grown facial hair. What I was asking at the beginning was what was known about the internal and cell level responses in the body with this combination. We could be providing HRT and causing or accelerating cancer later if we do not get this right.

"All this for carrying some meth on her."

Maybe you didn't explicitly say "minor crime," but the implication is there. She was only carrying "some" meth.

The thing is we're punishing people for the risk their behavior poses to society already. We are getting tougher on drunk drivers every year. Why? Because the risk a drunk driver poses to other motorists is pretty high. Should we do away with drunk driving laws? Maybe drunk driving is really ok unless the drunk kills someone?

Drug trafficking puts society at a different kind of risk than drug use. I agree with you an others that we'll never arrest our way out of the drug problem. If it were up to me, I'd never arrest much less imprison a user. Players in the drug trade are another story.

So, what's the issue here? Is it the war on drugs, or is it that Trans*people are mistreated in the correctional system. If it is about Trans*people the assertion that the crime was "non-violent" is immaterial. It shouldn't matter if she was convicted of check forging, dope smuggling, or mass murder.

Many years ago - it must have been about 15 years ago, now - I did a series of pieces for the gay press in the San Francisco Bay Area (as well as for the San Jose Mercury and the Metro that dealt with an anachronism in the country run penal systems.

Santa Clara County, just 50 miles south of San Francisco, automatically places all men who are classified as "homosexual" in 23-hour daily lockdown, regardless of the crime for which they've been arrested. If they're gay, they are an automatic security risk.

At the time of my first visit to some of these incarcerated men, I was introduced to a 45-year old man who had been arrested, and sentenced to six months in county jail, for the crime of forging a check for $1,000. While undergoing classification, he answered "yes," when asked if he was "gay or bisexual." Mark was 40, about 6'5", and a husky 275 pounds.

Because he admitted to being gay, he was "red-shirted," and housed in a 23-hour lockdown pod in the maximum security jail in downtown San Jose.

At the same time, I was tipped another inmate, still awaiting trial, was at the Elmwood Facility; literally, the county work-farm, with very minimal security. Sections of the farm were open fields, from which two or three inmates routinely walked away, per year. Only those convicted for petty offenses were supposed to be housed at Elmwood, no inmates awaiting trial were to be housed there. And even if this inmate had been sentenced, he would never have been housed at a minimum security facility.

His name was Richard Wade Farley; on February 15, 1988, Farley visited his former employer's main campus in Sunnyvale and walked through the main building, armed to the teeth, indiscriminately killing anyone who stood between him and a female co-worker with whom he was obsessed.

But, of the two, the gay shoplifter, in the jail's classification system, posed a bigger threat to the security of the jail.

I don't really know what happened to Mark; Farley is at San Quentin, on California's Death Row.

Based on my article, Farley was moved into a one-man, 23-hour lockdown cell downtown. The situation, however, did not change for gay men in the system, though. If anything, it got worse. Still seen as a threat, gay men were still being housed in 23-hour lockdown when I did a follow up a year later but now, because of jail overcrowding, there were two men to a cell. One of the men I interviewed, a sleight 32 year old named Raymond was housed with Richard Allen Davis, the killer of Polly Klaas, who had been transferred to Santa Clara County for fear a trial in his home county could not be fairly held.

Hey there folks, I was going to just have a good laugh at the whole story and then pass this story by. But what the hell I might as well step up and do the deep do-do with this one. NON-VIOLENT DRUG OFFENSE????? do tell. Give me a what is it, oh yes, "A *uckin* Break". 10 pounds of meth you say and you really expect me to understand how some of you think "non-violent". I think not. I really don't give a rats ass if the lady is a trans, a queer (bye the bye I do not call myself gay I am a queer red blooded male and I like the term very much), straight, or whatever drugs are the root of violent crime. When I recently learned of a neighborhood crime spree (in our state capital) which involved my brother's home busted into, car stolen, cash located and taken when it turns out to be the male partner of a lady he called friend who claimed she didn't know her hubby was stealing anything to continue doing the Meth. Even after he had served time in prison he is at it again. So the clients of this TRANS are out there stealing, busting into cars, and homes. For what to get the cash to buy more meth. Please Please Please just give me a break while I cry CROCODILE TEARS. I cannot fathom even a smidgen of sorrow for the predicament he/she put his community into and don't give me the line that he had to deal drugs to earn his sex change operation. There is a huge variance between self-medication at the street level and 10 pounds of that crap.

Nice touch, refusing to even use the proper pronoun for Santamaria.

As for, "don't give me the line that he had to deal drugs to earn his sex change operation." Nobody here has claimed that, so don't blow this up to make it a completely different story. Inventing phony details doesn't bolster your flimsy case; it simply proves you're got none.

The issue here, which you and some others are conveniently choosing to forget, is not whether or not she committed a crime. It's about whether or not she deserves to be able to continue her treatment under safe conditions. Stick to the point without trying to distract us from the real issue with details about your life.


so, how about them steelers, thought for a mo they was going to the Superbowl.

Wow.

Showe up this morning to check in after this was posted, nothing.

Come back, 42 comments, with two people triggering most of them.

Here's the simple version for many:

She's not trying to get out of being punished for her crimes.

So any argument that she "deserves" this as if she is doing so is basically one of malice.

What she is trying to do is gain her Constitutional right to fair and humane treatment in prison while she pays for her crimes.

She has that right. It is *just* as important a right as the right to marry.

To argue against that right is, in effect, saying that in your opinion, not everyone is equal, and not everyone is deserving of equal rights.

Which, in my opinion, makes certain persons bigots.

It is necessary medical treatment. That she has to fight to get it is part of why there have been "so many trans articles" of late.

And why they will continue.

Antonia,

I think your perception is slightly skewed. I haven't seen a single poster state she "deserves" what she is getting.

I have seen posters state she willingly committed a felony; she put her own future at risk by doing so. The state in which she's incarcerated obviously deems transitioning to be an elective medical procedure, and that lack of treatment is not life threatening.

She is in an isolated unit for her own protection. Were she to be in the general population, her life would be at risk; she would almost certainly be raped, and probably repeatedly raped.

Should she be confined to a medical facility, similar to Vacaville State Prison in California? Most definitely, in my opinion. The Department of Corrections in her state obviously feels differently.

She is going to need outside advocacy to have her situation changed; but if she's served 6 years of a 10 year sentence, odds are she's going to be paroled sometime in the next year - if not sooner...

Unless she's a repeat offender. If that's the case, then (and you don't want to hear this) she knew exactly what lay in store for her should she be found guilty of committing a crime, and chose to mule 10 pounds of meth, anyway.

Eric, that's a pathetic response, barely worth the time it took you to write it.

Indeed, that I am responding now is only indicative of how pathetic -- in your post, you *justified* the treatment for her,.

You blamed the victim of rights denial for that very denial.

And you fail to see it, which is, in and of itself, probably the saddest thing I've ever seen you write.

And, worse, likely not something you feel ashamed for doing.

Toni states (in a response to a comment of mine she finds "pathetic"):

Indeed, that I am responding now is only indicative of how pathetic -- in your post, you *justified* the treatment for her,.

Where did I ever say I felt her treatment was "justified"?

Here's a hint for you, Toni: I didn't.

What I said was I, personally, believe her medical treatments should have been continued.

Toni continues:

You blamed the victim of rights denial for that very denial.

And you fail to see it, which is, in and of itself, probably the saddest thing I've ever seen you write.

And, worse, likely not something you feel ashamed for doing.

What a crock, Toni, and unworthy of you. You place a belief on me that is clearly not my stated belief, then accuse me of willful blindness in not acknowledging that same belief.

I have stated, repeatedly: Santamaria is going to need the assistance of an outside advocacy group to have her situation changed, and that I, personally, believe her treatments should never have been stopped.

However, Toni, I can turn the "willful blindness" right back on you - Santamaria willingly committed a felony crime. She knew the risks of being incarcerated should she be caught. She was caught. She was incarcerated. Once incarcerated, for all intents and purposes, an inmate becomes the charge of the Department of Corrections. The Virginia Department of Corrections has determined that, for Santamaria's own safety, she needs to be housed in an Administrative Segregation Unit.

A prison system is a bureaucracy, just as is any state (or federal) agency. They are unlikely to change their policies and procedures unless forced to do so by a court order. Santamaria is not in the position to petition the court, nor to have that petition heard prior to the expiration of her prison term.

I repeat: Santamaria is going to need outside advocacy to have her situation change.

But I'm also going to include another caveat concerning such advocacy. Before taking up the cause, I hope those advocates (if any emerge) check with Santamaria to determine her wishes concerning the interjection of those advocates.

Justifying something doesn't require using the word justify, Eric.


All quite nice attempts, but, again, merely further justifications.

Toni,

You really need to stop enshrouding other people with your beliefs, then holding them to task for some perceived violation of those beliefs.

I did NOT justify the treatment of Santamaria; actually, the opposite is true. I believe her treatments should have continued.

But they did not, and the reason for the discontinuation was entirely the purview of the Virginia Department of Corrections.

Wow. I'm so disappointed and dismayed at some of these comments advocating the same thing we fight against - that our tribe doesn't get equality in health care, civil rights, equal treatment under the law, or even a basic understanding of our medical needs - that I don't think I even want to join the argument.

The problem, Bil, is that, as you well know now, far too many people don't realize how it is that they work against their own interests simply because they can find no obvious commonality.

You can see it now -- the things that trans people are fighting against.

When the whole world is against you, it really does become you against the world, and that means a lot of bloody fighting and mindset that says no prisoners.

Yet, that's probably exactly why you should join the argument. Part of the reason those dismaying comments are made is because they're confident other cis people won't call them out.

Angela Brightfeather | January 5, 2010 11:15 AM

About 7 years ago, the NC legislature decided that people incarcerated in NC prisons would not be allowed the state aid of hormone therapy for being a transexual, even though they were obviously taking hormones before being put in jail. They determined that the state's taxpayers would not be forced to pay for the treatment of gender dysphoric people.
There was a hue and cry from a few people and in the media, but essentially it lasted a few nannoseconds. What was left was, as the one source in NC through It's Time NC, I inherited the task of responding quickly to about ten different cases of transexuals in the system for various reasons, that I consider due to outright prejudice to outright breaking a law.

In every case I visited the person in jail and in every case they wished to stay in the general population where they felt they were more protected than being in isolation. Their fear was based on the fact that if housed in isolation they would be exposed to the worst of the worst. The sickest, mentally ill and perverted and transphobic cases that could be gathered into one place. So when going in at first, I thought that isolation would be the way to go, but I was "educated" about that immediately.

I think that the problem with the case as noted of Ms. Santamaria is that she had no choice and she was placed in isolation by a prison that intentionally wanted to put her in harms way the fastest way that they could and that it was done deliberately.

She should of had a choice on how she would be housed and I have to assume that her first choice would have been the general population of a woman's prison, followed by the general population of a men's prison and the last choice would have been in special isolation areas in either prison.

I think that the general rule here in NC is that transexual identified persons will not be given hormones but will recieve any other form of medical and psychiatric assistance equal to what other prisoners get to relieve illnesses. Also that they are given the choice of being in isolated confinement or being housed in the general male population. (I also know that every prisoner that I interviewed and talked to said that I should not be worried about the hormones and that they would deal with that in one way or another.... meaning that they would get them somehow.)

Is it all fair? No it is not, and some people cope and some just can't, but being transexual does not help anything and in fact is most often used against the person if the system is given that chance. The first person that I met with in the Johnston County Jail (Johnston County = the birthplace of the KKK as proudly displayed on a billboard on Rt. 95) noted that she was sent to jail because she was caught by Homeland Security, using the ID of her niece for the past 20 years, living all that time as a female on hormone therapy, but never had SRS. When they caught her, they actually charged her not only with using her niece's ID, but also with desertion, since she diserted from the US Navy in 1972, about 32 years from the date of her being sent to jail on the other charge. She told me that she enlisted back then thinking that she would be able to get the Navy to pay for her SRS. She went AWOL when she found out they would not help her. Back in 1972, that was not uncommon. She was appealing the desertion charge and was worried about being sent to Leavenworth Prison, and she was also appealing the ID charge because she did nothing fraudulent or harmful to her niece like running up bills or charges against her.

That is just a peek at one person who is TS and in prison. As far as I'm concerned and having dealt with TS's in prison over the past 7 years, they were all caught doing things that were against the law in one way or another, but what was never considered was the things prior to their confinement that contributed to their breaking the law. Most of the people that I have met, felt that they had no choice about breaking the law. They did it for what seemed like the only thing they could do, and that is the real crime. That any person would be denied the normal choices that everyone else has in their lives to be able to make sound decisions for themselves, is simply not right.

But again, as we all know, that just happens to so many transexuals in the real world. If you can't get a job and are discriminated against at every turn and life becomes so difficult that it is easier to take what you need than to earn it, then eventually you get caught taking instead of contributing, just to survive. I wont' condemn them, but I try to console them the best that I can and in the process, I feel abused, I feel deeply concerned for them and I feel sick, deep down in my stomach about it enough to walk out of those prisons and want to heave on the grass when walking to my car.

What impresses me the most about the comments to this article is the amount of speculation regarding a case where there are few particulars presented.

None of the extenuating circumstances of this person are known except that she was living as a female before she was incarcerated and that she was found to be in possession of ten pounds of meth at the Comfort Inn.

If I had to bet on it, I would place my money on the very likely possibility she was represented by an overworked public defender who had little time to investigate the facts surrounding her circumstances.

One poster, Robert Ganshorn, made this comment about some of the hard realities surrounding the lucrative business of drug trafficking:

"They did not come in to community meetings in my neighborhood and attempt to intimidate anyone. They did not beat a 13 year old senseless (his parents sent him to Puerto Rico to keep him safe for a year) a block from my home because he would not run drugs. They did not recruit in the local grade schools for drug runners. They did not intimidate children..."this is a victimless crime.""

By making a "choice" not to run drugs did the 13 year old boy "choose" to be beaten senseless? How does anyone know what kind of choices Santamaria had available without knowing all the facts surrounding her case. If she was represented by an overworked public defender, did the public defender have time to present all the facts?

I know how successful drug dealers are represented in my home state and town. Here is a little story about the mayor's brother and the son of the former chief justice of the state supreme court:


http://newsblog.projo.com/archives/2008/06/jcicilline.html

I hope the link about the lawyers' shakedown of drug trafficking defendants makes a connection w/ the article. I watched one of these lawyers and the father of the other in action in a case involving my nephew who was only a minor player in a crime he decided not to carry out. He was represented by a well meaning but over worked public defender who didn't have time to pursue an investigation into conflicting testimony presented. He received a twenty year sentence with six to serve from the politically ambitious judge who had a T V camera focused on him. He was badly in need of a scapegoat. The other two, one of whom plotted the crime and carried out his plan with the other, were represented by the son of the former chief justice and the father of the other lawyer, a well known Mafia lawyer. The two other defendents got five years probation. That is the way justice is meted out in 21st century America. My nephew who went into prison clean and sober met a lot of new friends while he was there. After release he soon became addicted to heroin.

Drug treatment? Well that is a whole other can of worms. There is a lot of money to be made in life time prescriptions to methadone, suboxone, SSRI's and the like. There is a lot of money in drugs. The most conservative people I know are the ones who have spent time in prison.

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | January 5, 2010 8:39 PM

Edith, no one ever counts the collateral damage of drugs. I am very sorry for your nephew and I hope he has gotten help and is now well. By making a choice to listen to his father Jose and his mother Miriam not to have anything to do with the drug running gang members the 13 year old was ambushed on the way to what would be his last day of school in our local school for a year. Fortunately they had relatives in Puerto Rico to immediately get their son out of this situation.

Oh, and they elected not to attempt to prosecute the offenders for fear of what might happen to his younger sister. There is not a lot of justice on the street. It became one of many files in the crimes task force.

I worked with Jose and Miriam on community issues. They were also CAPS meeting regulars trying to keep their community safe. I heard about it because the beating occurred in Mozart Park where I served on the advisory council. I have been in their home and they have been in mine and when Jose explained to me what his reality was I had to acknowledge that father knows best how to keep his family safe.

For myself, I had bullets fly through my windows as an attempt at intimidation three times. That is why I scoff at any association with drugs being non violent and justifiable. From their manufacture through their distribution they destroy. They also send money to the most violent and destructive domestic and foreign actors.

As regards the individual who is the subject of this posting any attempt to generate sympathy for her condition has to be tempered with the horrible act she committed by distributing meth. Had it been ten pounds of grass I would have felt different about her situation, but not VERY different because the money still goes in the same corrupted pockets you document well.

Hi Robert,

I am no fan of methamphetamine. It is no secret "speed kills". My point was that neither Jose, Miriam or their son had many viable choices.

I have never had bullets fly through my windows. In forty years of intense warfare on drugs, however, the situation seems only to have escalated. I have more than my fair share of stories, although, I cannot say I have ever felt as threatened as you have been. Tonight, I listened to how the situation in Juarez, Mexico has deteriorated. Something is not working.

Why is most of this activity concentrated only in certain neighborhoods? If one of Jose and Miriam's son's friends felt pressured into joining a gang as a result of what happened to their friend I wonder how anyone could seriously say they made a choice.

Yes, I think I agree with the point you are trying to make. Violent and calculating criminals need to be apprehended and put behind bars. They deserve no one's sympathy, although, that is no reason to treat anyone cruelly. Two wrongs do not make a right. To right a wrong with another wrong only serves to prove that might makes right rather than ensures that what is correct prevails.

As far as the transsexual woman in question, I think it is reasonable to ask whether someone who is obviously vulnerable to many kinds of exploitation actually had many choices available to her. I don't think there is enough to go on from the information made available about her situation here.

NUF KIDS JUST ENOUGH! I do not know or really care politically as to why Alex posted this article with so little information the fact is he did post it. Very astute of you Bill B. my compliments to the chef. We are looking at 82 comments and everyone is getting all lathered and slathered over just what the meaning of "IS" "IS". To this queer man, Armed Forces Veteran retired with great VA Medical benefits because I demanded them and I worked to get my due I would certainly hope that this has to be the last that I will respond to since # 62. Wanna count them I may be off a nano or two but all the same you folks have degenerated into a useless heap of something my dog wouldn't even step in. While I really did laugh at the onset of such childishness as I remember it I even offered to step up and into it myself. You tire me greatly no more than greatly - hugely. So lets get down to the basics once again. 10 pounds of meth and a man who can't be a man for various physiological mental conditions from where it started I care not just that it "is" what it "is". Please don't try to rake me over the Coles of a fire that should have been mercifully drenched even before comment # 3 was rendered for the use of the term to describe the mental condition not the physical form here bye the bye. You want the inmate to be treated better advocate for the inmate not one but all. Presently the law is being followed to the letter. However that isn't the point is it the intentions while not exactly expressed as I see it were to put the drugs on the street unless someone is more knowledgeable of the situation. I would find it even more laughable if the legally convicted inmate tried to sell 10 pounds of METH to a cop. Finally that the inmate is not getting any more than the required medical treatment based on the physical renderings at birth. Growing hair on the body wax the damned stuff I do and I do it to my boy friend's nuts which both of us love. Please just grow up.

So you're OK with witholding insulin from diebetics - as some can manage to maintain their life by diet alone, even if they go blind and lose some limbs?

Because they're "not getting any more than the required medical treatment based on the physical renderings at birth" either.

Same logic.

We've shown that it costs taxpayers more, not less, to stop hormones, due to the consequent ill-effects that result. Just as treating a diebetic prisoner's sequelae from poor circulation costs more than insulin shots.

Everyone here is assuming that she's guilty, because she pleaded guilty.

But she'd been held in solitary for 3 months before trial, without hormones.

This was before she was convicted.

When the accused is transsexual, it is thus usual in the USA to torture them for 3 months without trial and withhold necessary medication (in the hope of extracting a confession perhaps?). A torture so severe that it caused permanent brain damage, and suicidal ideation. Even if they don't get found guilty - the accusation is sufficient.

Recalcitrant prisoners who commit crimes such as rape, murder etc while inside can only be put in solitary like that for 2 weeks in most places - up to 90 days in others. Measurable neurological damage happens after 1 week, but it's not permanent - a few months of normal socialisation and the MRI scans give normal results. After more than a week though, it may be. People vary in their ability to recover. Some become completely and permanently psychotic, either catatonic or violently murderous after only a month.

Permanent suicidal ideation often happens after a few months: the prognosis in such cases is poor.

Others can take 5 years of this treatment and, after extensive, decades-long therapy, lead almost normal lives afterwards. Others can take even longer periods, but those never completely recover.

It is for this reason that

solitary confinement as a punishment for misbehaviour should last days, not weeks or months
90 days solitary has been deemed to be unacceptable by the 2nd Circuit as a punishment, though acceptable for "administrative reasons".

None of this is disputed in the psychiatric literature. The use of prolonged (emphasis added) periods of solitary confinement under the same conditions as Virginia - rather than allowing prisoners a baseball mitt and ball, playing cards etc - is thus legally dubious on constitutional grounds.

It's not unlikely that contacting this prisoner might be fruitless, because by now she's quite, quite insane, unable to communicate with anyone any more, to speak coherent sentences. A hospital with adequate psychiatric care may cause this to go into remission, or it may not.

On the other hand, she may just be suicidal. That's a best case.

I'm Intersexed rather than Trans. But I suffered Gender Dysphoria for 47 years. Whether a mild case, or one so severe I had to become mildly psychotic to survive, I'm not sure. The evidence suggests the latter - but it doesn't matter, it appeared mild to me. I had little distress.

So I know how mild Gender Dysphoria feels. You hope that every day, you'll find an honourable excuse to die - hopefully so that someone else, someone whose life is not constant misery, may live.

And I went through "Hormone Hell" in a big way. My endocrine system went chaotic. PMT, menopause, and back again in a day. My neurology was permanently altered by this whipsawing. It can be very disconcerting to feel one's mind changing, even if as someone with knowledge of neurology, you know approximately what's happening, and why.

So I know whereof I speak.

I suspect that I'd be one of the ones particularly susceptible to going stark staring bonkers under these conditions. My imagination would take over, and soon I'd be happy in my own world, impervious to outside stimuli. Total autism. The Happy Ending in the film "Brazil".

Daniel;
Most respectfully, exactly what are your credentials to determine what the medical needs of this inmate are?

Wolfgang E. B. Wolfgang E. B. | January 5, 2010 11:43 PM

Drugs: Why Legalization is the Answer

Yes, some drugs are dangerous. Some are highly addictive. Countless lives have been ruined by them. The drug trade is a violent, life-destroying business. It makes sense for these substances to be prohibited. Or does it?

Let's look at the drug trade. Why is it so violent? 1. Money. The stakes are high. Huge amounts of money are changing hands. Illegal substances are worth more than their weight in platinum. Money is the main reason for the existence of drug dealers and pushers. 2. Danger. The fear of getting caught by the authorities weighs heavily on the minds of everyone involved in the drug trade. This fear, and the efforts to avoid detection, is entirely responsible for the massive amounts of money involved in the drug trade.

Legalization would destroy the underground drug trade. Natural substances, like marijuana, that can be easily grown would become worthless in monetary value. Drugs requiring refinement, like cocaine, or creation in a lab, like LSD, would become cheap. All of the above could be regulated, sold in liquor stores to people over 21 years of age, and taxed. Drugs like meth (which was originally invented as one of many legal alternatives to older drugs which had been outlawed, like cocaine) would lose their appeal and gradually phase out.

Drugs have always been with us, and always will be. We need to accept this and find more pragmatic ways to regulate them and educate the public about them. Our current "abstinence only" programs are no more useful as drug education than they are in regard to sex.

Our nation's drug laws are directly responsible for most of our drug problems. They also represent an unconstitutional infringement on our freedom.

thanks for posting this.

the comments from (I assume) cissexual people here are so sad though. it seems a lot of readers are adamantly against the basic human rights of transitioning people, and have formed opinions without such pesky grounding as facts. facts on the medical detriment of being yanked immediately off hormone treatment... facts on the conditions of prisons and the differences among punishments... facts about prisoners' rights in the first place!

pleading guilty or being a criminal does not remove all of your rights. transitioning does not remove your rights.

where is the compassion? the understanding?

just unbelievable.

Post-op writes:

"thanks for posting this.

the comments from (I assume) cissexual people here are so sad though. it seems a lot of readers are adamantly against the basic human rights of transitioning people, and have formed opinions without such pesky grounding as facts. facts on the medical detriment of being yanked immediately off hormone treatment... facts on the conditions of prisons and the differences among punishments... facts about prisoners' rights in the first place!

pleading guilty or being a criminal does not remove all of your rights. transitioning does not remove your rights.

where is the compassion? the understanding?

just unbelievable."

Post-op, there are many things incorrect in your statement.

In most states in the United States, incarceration is no longer officially viewed as a form of rehabilitation, but one of punishment. Most prison budgets have been slashed to the point there's enough money to provide "two hots and a cot," and the necessary security personnel to man the institution, period.

Courts have consistently upheld that a prison inmate is not entitled to the civil rights enjoyed by an unimprisoned person. Traditionally, such stripped civil rights are only restored - if they are restored - when an inmate (or an inmate's advocate) is victorious in a lawsuit seeking the restoration of those rights.

(Funnily enough, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals only today found that those incarcerated in Washington State still retained the right to vote, but the rationale of the decision was decided because the number of racial minorities imprisoned in Washington State was so out-of-proportion when compared to the actual structure of Washington's populace that votes cast by the general public reflected a disproportion centered around racial lines).

Prisons are nothing more than human warehousing. I, personally, feel such an attitude is morally wrong. States facing the very real problem of illiteracy and poverty, as well as high recidivism rates, have a different imperative regarding their prison populations.

No one is arguing it is not to the detriment of a person to suddenly cease any medical treatment, but in this case, Santamaria's sudden cessation was six years ago. I said "it could be argued by the state" that the deleterious effects of such a cessation were experienced by Santamaria years ago.

Again, I do not agree with that thinking; I'm merely being a devil's advocate, anticipating what a state Department of Correction's response might be in any lawsuit Santamaria, or any advocate of Santamaria, might file.

I don't recall anywhere in these postings where anyone has stated "transitioning removes civil rights."

And, finally, where is my compassion?

It is with the people who, either through their own misadventure or under the guidance of others, being their venture into drug dependency that then dominates their lives; it is with the families decimated by the toll taken on them by a single individual. It is with the children who are doing without food because their parents funnel all their money up their nose, or into a vein. It is with babies who are born addicted to meth or crack.

But it most definitely is not with the person who sees those people as their own, personal, financial opportunity.

prisons have a legal obligation to provide necessary medical care to prisoners.

medical transition is medically necessary (to believe otherwise is cissexist- you'd value your own medical needs over mine)

read here if you're interested in facts and experiences beyond your own:
http://www.tgijp.org/tip/

my compassion is with all who suffer. that includes prisoners and their loved ones. that includes addicts and their loved ones. that includes YOU should either ever impact YOU. discrimination not necessary.