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Ostracized by fellow prisoners and tarred by a system that refuses to acknowledge basic human rights, their letters spin a compelling—and woefully unsurprising—narrative.
All four women gave me permission to tell their stories.
Last August, the Army private now known as Chelsea Manning was sentenced to 35 years in military prison.
A day after the trial, Manning announced plans to undergo hormone therapy and begin public life as a woman.
Being assaulted by cell mates or other incarcerated inmates can happen when transgender people are put into the wrong prisons, into all male facilities when they are clearly male to female, or a female to male.
The updated guidelines stipulate that the state can't place transgender inmates in dedicated buildings or units solely based on their gender identity and must consider on a case-by-case basis "the least restrictive levels of security and custody needed to promote the health and safety of the offender," along with weighing management and security concerns."A transgender offender's own views with respect to their safety shall be given serious consideration, including whether they believe they would be more safely housed in a male or female facility," the policy reads.
His fiancée, Paula, is currently serving time in a southern state prison, and has so far served four months of what could be a thirty-six month sentence. But Paula was placed in an all male prison to serve out her sentence. The calls since then have been about Paula's hopelessness and her fear of the guards, as well as the other inmates. "It's not fair, it's not right." Like other transgender people, Paula is housed in the prison that is determined by her physical gender.