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Solitary as a Tool of Homo/Transphobia & Transmisogyny

** This post is the first in a series of blog posts on solitary confinement in Illinois. For information about this blog series read this introduction.

Solitary Illinois

The US government claims to hold 80,000 people in solitary confinement. The true number of people in solitary is likely significantly greater given that many states hold prisoners in conditions very similar to solitary but don’t call it by that name. In Illinois, the Department of Corrections calls it “Segregation” and “Administrative Detention” and states that on any given day 2,500 – 3,000 people in Illinois are held in solitary confinement. Though conditions in “protective custody” are extremely similar to those in Seg or AD, people held in protective custody are not included in that total.

The public is told a narrative about solitary confinement – that it is a necessary resource of the Department of Corrections to isolate dangerous predators who have harmed guards or other prisoners and whose presence in general population is a safety threat to everyone else. Our inside members have shared a different narrative that views solitary as a method of control and subjugation, a tool to break people who do not conform to what the prison deems a “model inmate”. There are a host of behaviors, mindsets, and identities that prisons deem “a threat” to their ability to continue on with business as usual: filing grievances; speaking out against unfair/abusive treatment; involvement or connection to radical/revolutionary movements or literature; simply for being a person of color, Black, Indigenous, queer, or trans. As in “free world” society, homo/transphobia and transmisogyny are rampant throughout prison, but they have a unique impact on folks in solitary.

Here, several Black and Pink members explain some of the ways in which queer and trans prisoners are placed in solitary.

 

  • It’s very easy to be thrown in segregation for merely walking in a way an officer finds too sissylike. I’ve been thrown in segregation because an officer felt my fingernails were too longs and girlie. My friend was thrown in segregation cause her eyes were lined.
  • people throw urine and feces when you are going to the yard so many LGBT people don’t go to the yard and don’t get exercise.
  • Often LGBTQ inmates are placed there simply because they are not wanted in the general populations. Some correctional officers use the opportunity to harass the LGBTQ inmates. We are literally in a cage and cannot just walk away! And most of the time we don’t deserve to be in solitary confinement
  • I notice that alot of gay males that are constantly harassed by inmates and officers then that gay person be written a bogus ticket for no reason and place in solitary confinement sometimes without a light in the cell or a mat that person behavioral functioning interferes seriously with the ability to function inadequately with the rest of the general population after that person has been placed in seg for over 90 – to – 6 months being in confinement. It’s not right that a gay person should not be bullied, jump on or harrassed by staff because of their life style
  • put in solitary for being transgender
  • They really target flamboyant or trans inmates. They assume that they are always after sex – And they say they cause alot of drama, fights, etc. so it’s better for all parties involved to isolate/segregate them. (which is bullshit!!)
  • Some correctional officers use the opportunity [of solitary] to harass the LGBTQ inmates
  • the officers often stop by to give us some good encouraging words like, “You haven’t killed yourself yet?” or they will say things like, “Stop doing that to yourself – get that out of your butt!” when in reality I was just sitting on the bed. They say that stuff to make other inmates laugh
  • Being locked up is horrible to begin with if you a known LGBTQ it is much worse. LGBTQ are singled out soley for that reason and end up in solitary for essentially for being who you are.

 

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