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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, September 25, 2015 - Volume 43 Issue 39
Maryland Trans woman wins compensation for prison abuse
Section One
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Maryland Trans woman wins compensation for prison abuse

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

A Transgender woman inmate in Maryland has won a groundbreaking legal victory giving her compensation for abuse she suffered at the hands of prison guards.

Sandy Brown was held in solitary confinement for 66 days and was regularly ridiculed by guards, who encouraged her to kill herself, called her 'It' and 'Animal,' and at one point pulled back the curtain while she was showering to stare at her naked body.

'They put me in solitary confinement just because I am transgender. I spent 24 hours a day in solitary and was only allowed one hour of recreation during the entire 66 days I was there,' Brown said.

'They didn't see me for the human being I am. They treated me like a circus act. They gawked, pointed, made fun of me and tried to break my spirit,' she added.

According to FreeState legal aid organization, Brown is the first Trans inmate to win relief under the federal Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) of 2003.

An administrative law judge agreed with Brown's attorneys that the guards' conduct violated the national standards set up by PREA, and on August 17 the Secretary of Maryland's Department of Public Safety & Correctional Services formally adopted the judge's finding. FreeState announced the win on September 24 as SGN went to press.

Under the orders issued in this case, Maryland must adopt new, comprehensive policies for the protection of Transgender inmates in prison housing assignments, searches, and interactions between guards and Transgender prisoners, and must institute mandatory training on these policies for all correctional officers.

'As far as we know, this is the first case in the country in which a transgender person has been able to obtain individual relief, including monetary compensation, for violations of the national PREA standards,' Brown's lawyer Rebecca Earlbeck stated.

'We believe this case creates a framework for enforcing the national standards that transgender people who are incarcerated in other states and their advocates can follow to help to ensure that others do not have to endure the pain and trauma Ms. Brown experienced,' she added.

According to a 2011 NGLTF survey, nearly 40% of Transgender people in prison report being harassed due to their gender identity by prison staff. Because Transgender people are particularly vulnerable to abuse in prison, the national standards contain provisions that specifically address how prisons should determine where to house Transgender inmates, how searches of Transgender inmates should be conducted, and how guards should interact with Transgender people who are incarcerated.

Next week, SGN will feature an interview with attorney Rebecca Earlbeck.

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