Italy: trans only prison update

January 28, 2010

Following on from my recent post (Italy “to open first prison for transgender inmates”), I’ve seen updates at UPI, IOL South Africa and others.

Italy is nearing completion of a prison cell block intended exclusively for use by transgender prisoners beginning in March, officials said.

Formerly a low-security facility for women, the cell block at the Pozzale penitentiary will house about 30 inmates currently in a Florence prison [UPI]

I still have reservations about this idea, and I find the comments by Regina Satariano, of the Italian Movement for Transgender Identity, especially problematic.

“The facility will motivate the ‘trans’ to get involved in social reintegration programmes.”

I keep re-reading that and I just can’t follow the logic. Is Ms Satariano really saying that, in order to be “socially reintegrated”, we must be segregated from cis people? There’s an underlying ciscentrism at work there – that we must become motivated to join cis society – which, coming from a so-called trans advocate doesn’t really inspire confidence.

“Transgenders cannot build a future for themselves unless they are detained in a facility specially made for them,”

[…]

“It will not be a ghetto but a way to avoid the experience of isolation in ordinary prisons.”

I can’t help thinking that creating a ghetto is exactly what this proposal is doing. If there is segregation, not only are cis people de facto isolated from us, but it then becomes even easier for them to forget about us, to invisibilise us. If cis people don’t try and integrate with our community, to get to know us, to interact with us – then the risks to our safety aren’t likely to decrease. Fear and ignorance are the causes of much of the bigotry and transphobic violence that cis people show us and, to my mind, a good way of rehabilitating them could well be to help them realise that they, in fact, are a far bigger threat to us than we are to them. I don’t believe that an “out of sight, out of mind” policy is going to help anyone.

Satariano said that “women in prison don’t want ‘trans’ co-detainees, and to avoid problems they are not housed with men either. Spaces are created for them in prisons, but it amounts to isolation.”

If “women in prison don’t want ‘trans’ co-detainees” then I have to ask, whose problem is that, exactly? Why are trans people made to pay for cis people’s intolerance and prejudice? To me, that is nothing more or less than victim-blaming and I’m left wondering just what’s being done to help cis people come to terms with, and control, their sociopathic attitudes and behaviours?

However, having been thinking about this, off and on, for a few days now, I can actually see some advantage in segregating the cis prison population from us. Provided that the scheme accounts for such things as the provision of trans prison staff; appropriate facilities and services for trans men and women, etc, then maybe it could offer us a comparatively safe(r) space in which to exist while the cis prison population is rehabilitated to the point where they can rejoin us without our having to incur all those well-known, long-established risks to our well-being.

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Previous related posts about the (mis)treatment of trans women by the prison system:

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