How are pre-op transsexuals divided in short-term holding areas after incarceration?
February 2, 2009 11:17 AM   Subscribe

Where are pre-op transsexuals placed in short-term holding tanks when they are arrested? The men's area, or the women's?

I would definitely prefer an answer from actual police enforcement officials, but if you happen to know, I've wondered this forever. I used to live in a shady neighborhood and there was a well-known transsexual person of the evening that got arrested at least six times in front of my building. My understanding from the local convenience store clerk was that she was pre-op, but had breast implants and obviously hormone treatments.

In smaller areas, I would imagine there is a sort of "hold-all" cell area where people get put to sober up, get picked up by their parents, that sort of thing. But I live in a larger town where you are definitely divided in the holding tank areas by gender.

So, cops/transsexual workers/whomever: When a pre-op person gets arrested (prostitute or not, but I'm especially interested in the prostitute side of things, considering there may be violence in the holding tank), where does that person get assigned? The women's holding tank, or the men's? Is a strip-search done beforehand? I pray to god I'm not offending anyone by asking this, it genuinely is a question that has plagued me with curiosity for years.

I would assume that if you are transgender and busted on a larger charge and convicted, therefore serving time, you'd be assigned to whichever prison you belong to based on the genitals that you still retain at the time. Please feel free to clarify this better for me, too. I have seen various documentaries on gender reassignment surgery in prison and know that is an option/possibility; I am more concerned with where people go in the 24-hour holding tank areas for short-term offenses.
posted by Unicorn on the cob to Grab Bag (10 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
From my days on the police beat as a reporter, there was the men's area, the women's area and "other," which wasn't for transsexuals, per se, but anyone that couldn't safely be incorporated with any group, for whatever reason. The logic went ... You can't put the transsexual with the women, because, well, that's still a man under that dress, and you'll open yourself up to all kinds of liability. You can't put "her" in the men's area, because of the risk of violence.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 11:26 AM on February 2, 2009

Depends on how humane/aware the cops are, really. I know some places have specific guidelines, but I also know most don't and some of those that do, it's left up to the officers to sort out who goes where based on perceived comfort levels or appropriateness. This is sometimes wrong.

My related personal experience isn't actually personal: I've got some friends in Dallas who were put in with the men after being picked up for things like DUI and now have horrible memories to go with everything else.
posted by batmonkey at 11:35 AM on February 2, 2009

Best answer: I don't know about larger towns, but my husband is a police officer in our very teeny town and he also worked part-time at the jail. We have a resident who is a pre-op transsexual (male-to-female) who occasionally gets arrested for alcohol offenses. She always gets her own cell, for safety and liability reasons. There are a few single-inmate cells near the officers' main desk area that are used for people who need to be segregated for whatever reason and they're not really delineated as being for males or females, just for whoever needs them at the time. Things at the jail are pretty casual (think Mayberry lol), so I'm sure it's handled way differently in more populous places.
posted by amyms at 11:38 AM on February 2, 2009

In my extremely limited and second-hand experience, in the Austin area, it seems to be a judgment call made on a case-by-case basis, with the goal being maximum safety for all involved. I know of one case where a pre-op ftm was put in with the women, much to his disgust and outrage, but even his own lawyer said he would likely not survive - quite literally - in an all-male prison.
posted by restless_nomad at 11:38 AM on February 2, 2009

Best answer: My sister works at the state crime lab in Massachusetts. She says this.
Yeah, I Massachusetts you go into the holding cell of the gender that you have the genitalia of. If you have a penis, you're with the boys, vaginas go with girls.

However, MA also tries to be understanding to the realistic threat of violence, and people have been known to make exceptions. While they won't generally put you with your outward-but-not-inward gender, they will often try to find a place to segregate you entirely. This guarantees everybody's protection. Often this means you will wind up in a female holding cell, since many fewer women are arrested and held.
posted by jessamyn at 11:39 AM on February 2, 2009

Best answer: According to this article, in DC at least, there are no standard guidelines for this.

And this Amnesty International article alleges that transgendered females are placed in cells with male inmates "exposing them to heightened risk of physical and sexual violence by other inmates."

You have raised an important civil rights question.
posted by terranova at 11:40 AM on February 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

I just asked the parole officer who sits next to me, she says that in Philly it goes by your gender at birth during the holding stage, though once you've been processed you will be segregated from the general population during the stay of your incarceration in the prison system.
posted by The Straightener at 11:42 AM on February 2, 2009

Years ago, when I was in high school, a few of us troubled youths toured a men's state prison (FL), and there was a pre-op transsexual incarcerated there. She had breast implants but still had a penis, so she was housed with the men. However, we were told she had her own cell and very rarely ventured out into general population areas.
posted by AlliKat75 at 12:23 PM on February 2, 2009

Best answer: It really, really depends on where you are.

A report (pdf) from the Transgender Law Center.

Protocol (pdf) for the San Francisco County Jails is to put transgender inmates in a separate section. Not every jail system has that capacity or awareness, of course.
posted by gingerbeer at 12:35 PM on February 2, 2009

Jail/remand practices will vary by jurisdiction. You're getting idiographic responses here because those are the only answers you CAN get for a question like this.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 7:57 PM on February 2, 2009

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