Transgender woman housed in NJ prisons with men will be transferred

David Madden
August 29, 2019 - 1:24 pm

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NEWARK, N.J. (KYW Newsradio) — It appears a transgender woman allegedly held in men’s prisons in New Jersey for more than a year will be moved to the state’s women’s prison next month, according to lawyers working on the woman’s behalf.

The inmate, identified in a state lawsuit under the pseudonym Sonia Doe, has done almost 1.5 years on a drug addiction charge. The American Civil Liberties Union filed suit in April according to staff attorney Tess Borden, who says her client has identified herself as female for 15 years.

“The DOC knew from her records and her self-reporting and even her appearance that she was a woman. And yet they consistently insisted to treating her like a man,” Borden said.

The suit contends Doe has been transferred between men’s facilities, referred to as a man by guards who have abused her, and has had trouble receiving hormone medication behind bars. The action sought an immediate transfer to the women’s facility.

“The Department of Corrections informed the court that they were moving Miss Doe to the women’s prison,” Borden added, “which means we don’t need the emergency relief from the court anymore.”

The transfer should come by the middle of September.

The suit contends there are prison policies regarding how transgender inmates are to be handled, and the action will proceed in an attempt to make them more clear. 

There is no comment from the state attorney general, and the prisons have not returned calls for comment.  

There is a task force ordered by Gov. Phil Murphy that is studying this issue in general. 

The panel is expected to issue a report by the end of September and their findings are expected to include reforms in the criminal justice system.

Garden State Equality, an organization fighting for LGBTQ rights, issued a statement in light of the Doe case.

“Studies indisputably show that transgender people face violence, sexual abuse, and mistreatment within prison walls at rates far higher than the general prison population. The NJDOC’s decision to finally move Sonia Doe to the proper facility is welcomed, but the harm against her has already been done,” said Garden State Equality executive director Christian Fuscarino. “New Jersey’s criminal justice system needs significant reforms to protect transgender people, including a clear policy that guarantees individuals be housed in facilities in accordance with their gender identity. We fully support our partners at the ACLU of New Jersey to secure justice for this woman.”