Snake, Mad Dog and Susie: Transgender Women in Men’s Prisons

When you ask average Americans what they feel are the most important amendments, you will probably receive the same responses. Freedom of speech, due process and protection from illegal searches are usually the first mentioned since we see issues regarding these amendments every day. The 8th amendment, which protects against cruel and unusual punishments, is hardly a breaking news topic nowadays. Occasionally, you will hear of prison officials abusing powers and wielding excessive force, but for the most part this amendment is well-enforced in modern society and law. That being said, I was surprised to learn of the conditions that the transgender population of prison inmates must survive every day. Transgender inmates are forced to give up more rights and are placed in harsher conditions in prison than other inmates in order to protect themselves from physical, mental, and sexual violence. Not only are these conditions a violation of the 8th amendment, but they reveal a deep dilemma within the United States criminal justice system. I was drawn to this topic after I watched a documentary titled “Cruel and Unusual,” following the lives of five transgender women who had been incarcerated in men’s state prisons. I had never given this topic much thought before, and probably few people have. Yet it really got me thinking about the predicament that these individuals faced. I decided to investigate more and was...

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