Saturday, March 08, 2014

An Act Of Aggression Is Still Wrong

I'm angry beyond words at this:  Transgender Woman's Jail Treatment Prompts Complaints
Baxter said Griffith was concerned about her safety and asked to be put into protective custody. 
Guards moved her to the protective custody section and placed her in a cell with two accused male sex offenders, Baxter said.
We've heard this kind of BS before, and not long ago.

Let me be abundantly clear on this:

Placing a transgender woman in a male prison facility is just plain wrong.  It puts the prisoner in a situation of unprecedented danger.  Placing such a prisoner in the same cell as two sex offenders is incomprehensibly stupid.

However, let's put the outrage over these two incidents to one side for a minute and reflect on the situations and what they tell us about our prison system.

First, I recognize that prisons are necessarily going to be fairly conservative in how they run.  There is a lot of ugly issues that emerge when incarcerating people, and a lot of those behind bars aren't going to be very happy about it.  So, fair enough, guards have a tough lot.

That said, they are still intelligent agents in their actions.  Under what circumstances does placing someone who is known to be transgender in a male prison cell make sense?  (especially in the case of Avery Edison, who was so obviously female in her presentation)  Under what circumstances does it make sense to put that person in the same cell as a pair of male sexual offenders?

It doesn't.  It cannot.  Unless one looks at it as an act of cruelty on the part of the guards.

The only way this makes sense is if the guards believe that their role is to mete out arbitrary punishment over and above what incarceration already is.

Where would they get this idea?  In part from the ongoing flood of US entertainment nonsense that streams across our borders, no doubt.  But also because the policy environment that they live in enables them to ape the kind of behaviours that are commonly shown in television programs.

I suspect strongly that the guards in the Katlynn Griffith case were doing it because they were in a position of power, and they decided it would be "fun" to see what happens.  In an era where our governments are becoming progressively more aggressive and punitive, the message to the prison apparatus is clear:  be nasty - we won't stop you.

When the police have been granted extraordinary powers of search and seizure at the roadside, and the laws are being overhauled to impose ever harsher penalties, it isn't hard to see how the mentality that is being pushed by our federal government is being reflected in the actions of the civil servants tasked with enacting the resulting laws and policies.

The fact that we still have policies in place that say we must incarcerate people based on what is dangling between their legs (or not), says a great deal about a government which has become all about not just punishing offenders, but extending that punishment in as many directions as possible.

Incarceration is the government removing an offender's (or accused's) liberty.  It does not, to my knowledge, suspend the right to Security of the Person.  Guards who place someone in a situation that is inherently dangerous are violating that fundamental right, and are failing to do their job - which is to keep prisoners from escaping on one side, but to keep the prisons relatively safe at the same time.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The Harpercrytes twice tried their best to derail the NDP's Trans Rights Bill, and it's still (YEARS AFTER PASSING) stuck in our useless Senate in legal limbo.

Our Government is sending the crystal clear message that trans people do not count. CBSA and the prison system have received that message and are acting upon it.