A story in the Philadelphia Daily News raises some troublesome questions about the treatment of transgender inmates. There are a number of concerns also raised by the way the story is being reported by the paper as well. I have contacted one of the reporters on the story, and we have plans to speak on Wednesday.
Firstly, given the stereotypes of transgender people, it is not an encouraging sign that the story begins with the phrase "GET NAKED, squat and cough." Further references to "keisters" and "butts" don't help either.
The reporter asserts that Jovanie Saldana, 23, accused of armed robbery, "somehow suckered the system" because authorities placed her in a women's prison. She has spent the last 14 months incarcerated at Riverside Correctional Facility, the city's only female prison. The story suggests that she has identified as trans since the age of 12.
But after Saldana had the audacity to file a complaint about being being forced into oral sex with a corrections officer, prison officials listened into Saldana's phone conversations with her mother and learned that she is transgender.
She was immediately transferred to a men's prison and the investigation is apparently in jeopardy. Lorenzo North, president of the union representing corrections officers, asserted that the fact that Saldana is transgender proves that the accused officer is innocent. As if being transgender means that one cannot be forced into oral sex.
Corrections officials have quickly closed ranks, and a source close to the prison system, who asked not to be identified, asserted that Saldana tallied at least two infractions for fighting with other inmates, although the story does not indicate whether "fighting" includes physical force or injuries.
The accused officer was transferred to another prison after Saldana's recent complaint. "I'm trying to get him back to RCF [Riverside] as soon as possible, because he didn't do anything wrong," North said.
The actions and statements of the officers in the story would seem to give rise to an inference of retaliation against a sexual assault victim. Given the discrimination often experienced by transgender inmates, that is not a far-fetched inference, but we will have to await more details before forming a conclusion.