05 July 2013

Why The Rights Of Transgender Prisoners Matter

New Zealand is like most other countries in that male-to-female transgender inmates are confined to men's prisons.

Unlike most other countries, New Zealand has a government that is reviewing such a policy.  This is a result of report from the University of Auckland's Equal Justice Project, which documented the danger of sexual assualt such prisoners face.  

While the government's willingness to review the policy is laudable, Green Party Member of Parliament Jan Logue says that action is needed urgently because "when we lock someone in prison, we have an obligation to ensure that they are safe".

Whether or not one believes that the government should pay for the hormones, psychotherapy or surgery of someone in prison, I still think one has to agree that prisoners should be safe while they are in prison if one of the goals of incarceration is rehabilitation.  Granted, prisons don't always achieve this goal, and perhaps not all prisoners are rehabilitatable.  Still, the prison environment must be safe for anyone for whom there is any hope of change.

Also, while I believe that we are responsible for our actions, I know that having to deal with the ostracism, prejudice and even violence that many of us (as well as members of other "minority" groups) face is enough to drive some of us to desperation and rage--or to commit crimes or even violence in self-defense.  

I hope that the New Zealand government's willingness to review their policy will result in changing it and that more jurisdictions--including those here in the US--will do likewise.

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