It makes the head spin

Tell me honestly — how are the state prison systems supposed to deal with the following true scenario?

The person at issue was born a man, and started taking hormones to feminize his appearance. At some point, he committed a crime and ended up in California’s state prison system. He continued to be given access to those hormones while in prison but, because he still had male genitalia (i.e., no surgery), he was assigned to a men’s prison. While in prison, he “initially was in a consensual sexual relationship with [his] cellmate in violation of prison policy, did not report specific rape claims and refused offers to be moved to a different cell. Once []he made it clear [his] cellmate was sexually assaulting [him] and prison staff found strangulation marks on [his] neck, []he was removed to protective custody, the state maintains.”

As a result of the assaults committed against him by his former cell mate, the person at the heart of this story is now suing the California prison system (and, by extension, the California taxpayers) for an undisclosed sum of money. Here is how the AP story opens, and please note that the person at issue, although biologically male, with a full set of male equipment, is referred to throughout using feminine pronouns:

Alexis Giraldo was born as a man and takes hormones to feminize her appearance, a fact she says prison officials didn’t care about even as her male cellmate repeatedly raped and beat her.

Giraldo is suing the state prison system and several guards over the state’s policy of assigning inmates like her to men’s or women’s prisons depending on whether they have had a sex change.

“Prisons are violent places, and male prisons are especially violent places,” said Greg Walston, a lawyer who took Giraldo’s for free and asked a jury this week for unspecified damages. “You take that boiling cauldron and you put one woman in there — which is exactly what happened here — and it’s like throwing a fresh piece of meat into a lion’s cage.”

Giraldo, 30, claims Folsom State Prison guards ignored her complaints and returned her to the same cell until she was assaulted again, then placed in protective custody and moved to another facility.

Giraldo is suing the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation for emotional distress and violating her constitutional right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment. She has asked Superior Court Judge Ellen Chaitin to order prison officials to come up with a new system for housing transgender inmates.

Several counties in California, including San Francisco, have created separate units specifically for transgender prisoners. But like other states and the federal Bureau of Prisons, California assigns inmates to prisons based on their genitalia rather than physical appearance.

Biological men who dress and act like women but have not had sex reassignment surgery can be assigned to a psychiatric prison like the one to which Giraldo eventually transferred or the general population of a regular men’s prison.

This story really bothered me, because so many of the lines that define ordinary biology, ordinary sexual identity, and ordinary common sense are blurred.  I’ve got a whole bunch of questions, and you can answer them at your leisure, since I’ll be traveling tomorrow and won’t be able to blog:

1.  Why is a prisoner wearing long hair, girlie clothes and make-up in the first place?  (See the picture in the AP story for my take on the hair and make-up.)  Why not just prison orange and a short haircut, with no make-up?  Isn’t part of the punishment of prison to remove your chance to indulge in individual self-decoration?

2.  Why is Giraldo referred to as “she” and “her”?  Giraldo can take as many hormones as he wants, but he still has external male genitalia and lacks internal female plumbing.  I’m willing to concede that, once you have the surgery and look entirely like a woman from the outside, you’ve made the shift from one gender to another, but should a pill’s effect (breasts, less body hair and a higher voice) be sufficient to justify a news report that makes it sound as if a woman somehow wandered into a men’s prison facility?

3.  I assume the taxpayer’s are paying for Giraldo’s hormones.  I may be wrong, of course, but if I’m right, why are we?

Although you wouldn’t guess it to read this, I’m sympathetic to men and women who were born with the wrong wash of hormones.  In my years as a parent, I’ve known both boys and girls whose hormonal make-up, from the toddler phase up, was completely out of synch with their body’s sex.  Nevertheless, they were still boys, albeit feminized, or still girls, albeit masculinized.

Having said all this, if the state’s version of the story is true, the state stepped in as soon as it knew something was wrong, and rescued a very peculiar, mixed-up person from an untenable situation.  And if the inmate’s story is true, the state certainly waited too long to step in and correct the situation.  And no matter which story is true, I don’t like the way the news report keeps referring to Giraldo using feminine pronouns.

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Comments

  1. says

    Prison should include a complete loss of personal freedoms and our society continually sets itself up for problems when it forgets that. Inmates no longer have the innate rights – the liberties – that law-abiding citizens take for granted. No medications that were non-essential to the physical well-being of the inmate should ever be provided. No clothing beyond the standard-issue inmate garb should be provided. No chunky peanut butter; no television; no weight benches; no computers… Cigarettes? No sir.

    Otherwise, is prison truly a deterrent?

  2. Deana says

    Bookworm – Your first question is a good one. I would have thought that that was non-negotiable.

    So now “she” is demanding that the judge order prison officials to come up with a new system for housing transgender inmates. This is similar to a story I read recently where Muslim British attorneys are advocating for the creation of a separate prison system for Muslims because they believe that Muslims are not being treated fairly in British prisons.

    When does it end? And can anyone imagine the uproar that would happen if certain other groups would demand their own prison system?

    And this is going on in other areas as well. At a hospital I know, Muslim women demand that no male hospital personnel take care of them. And, of course, they “have to” have private rooms so that no male anywhere might see them.

    If a white person were to demand that no black person be permitted to take care of them in a public hospital and that they have their own room to reduce the likelihood that they would need to share a room with a black person, their requests would not be honored. And they shouldn’t be for all sorts of reasons. So why do people actually entertain similar requests from certain groups?

    Deana

  3. says

    “Prisons are violent places, and male prisons are especially violent places,” said Greg Walston, a lawyer who took Giraldo’s for free and asked a jury this week for unspecified damages. “You take that boiling cauldron and you put one woman in there — which is exactly what happened here — and it’s like throwing a fresh piece of meat into a lion’s cage.”

    Hey, do you think this guy might favor the death penalty with me?

    Just wondering.

  4. JJ says

    Prison is prison, not summer camp. This guy – girl, thing – can be Queen of the May on its own time, not ours. In prison a debt to society is being discharged: it isn’t supposed to be a stay at the Waldorf, with visits to the clinic thrown in.

    The first two comments make excellent points: society houses, feeds, clothes and provides emergency medical care – that’s it. You get your hair cut like everybody else, wear the same jump-suit as everybody else, and eat the same stuff as everybody else. No smoking, and you make license plates or do the laundry.

    The army manages to do this with volunteers who are our most valuable citizens – prisons ought to be at least as tough.

  5. says

    People who have not seen the inside of a prison make statements like those above based entirely on fantasy.
    It is impossible to institute “complete loss of freedom” unless you execute them. Prison blocks are all ranked as to how mean the prisoners are(incorrigibility).
    This case is being brought because the state was found negligent around 1990 for sending a male felon on parole back to prison. The violation of parole was getting a sex change (changing identity?). He (having changed to a she) was put back in a men’s prison, and was protected by his(her) cell mate, the famous ex-black panther Johnny Spain. Spain by the way, supports the prison system now, and believes the state was right to lock him up for 22 years, he only wishes he had gotten more education.
    Japanese prisons do not allow inmates to be raped. Since we all agree that it is OK for people to be raped when they go to prison (we’ve done nothing to change it), the case will be decided on narrow facts relating to what the guards thought they were doing.

  6. says

    Hi Scott,

    I for one don’t think it’s okay for anybody to be raped anywhere. So let’s see if we can find a solution. Mine is to make prison sentences half as long (so you could have one prisoner to a cell) but make prison a place you would not want to come back to. I guess you’re right that you can’t have a “complete loss of freedom” but you can sure take away all of the things Rob suggested and much more. Those who wanted job training, and behaved themselves, could get it. Those who didn’t could spend their time in isolation, with as little to do as possible, counting the hours until they get out. What’s your solution, Scott? I hope everyone else will join in with their ideas, too.

    P.S. It’s a bit off topic, but I’d also repeal all drug laws, which would, itself, reduce the inmate population to much more manageable numbers.

  7. says

    Prisoners tend to get violent if they are bored all the time. Requiring more intensive punishments, which tends to become less and less effective as time goes on. Get rid of the idle hands.

  8. Deana says

    Scott –

    Who here was saying that rape in prison is ok? No one. Because it isn’t ok.

    Unfortunately, lots of people get raped in prison – I’m all for taking appropriate steps to reduce the likelihood of this crime happening. The point is that this individual does not warrant special protection or privileges because of his transgender/transexual desires.

    What is good for a gander who wants to be a goose is good for all ganders.

    Deana

  9. says

    There is no movie, and no picture book that can give you an accurate idea of what prison is like. How can we debate policy about the intricate workings of a place we haven’t seen? Moral and effective solutions can only come from realistic assessments of what is actually happening. Debates about this issue are complex pivot on details.
    I wanted to know what it was like inside and so I got myself on a small tour set up for a Jesuit youth prisoner advocacy group.
    Just before entering our first C level Cell Block, (5 story block-long two prisoners behind every 4 feet of bars) the warden made us promise two things: First that we would fix our eyes at the very end of the Cell Block we were walking through, and Second that we would not stop walking. He said there was no reason to explain the rules as we would understand the instant we entered.
    The reason? If you don’t follow those instructions you will go into shock and not be able to move.

  10. Danny Lemieux says

    Repeal drug laws, DQ? Now, that would be a hot topic. I tend to agree with you but I don’t think that it could occur in a vacuum. There would have to be other changes, too…like taking the profit motive out of drugs by making them very, very cheap.

  11. Mike Devx says

    “He said there was no reason to explain the rules as we would understand the instant we entered.
    The reason? If you don’t follow those instructions you will go into shock and not be able to move.”

    Not be able to move? Not a chance, Scott. Such delicate sensibilities… among a youth prison advocacy group! Perhaps the problem is with the advocates. I have no illusions of what prison is like. I also know that our prison guards are no angels. Criminals tend to be raw predators and masterful manipulators. They operate primarily on the motivators of fear and coercion. (I’m not talking about those falsely convicted.)

    Because of the nature of criminals, our jails ought to be strictly controlled environments that operate based on those principles of fear and coercion. I’m not speaking of rampant brutality, I’m speaking of systems solely composed of rules and regulations, with simple rewards and punishments. No idle time, period. No unearned privileges. Absolutely no free time, no unorganized lounging. Rules and regulations; rewards and punishments. Nothing else. This is due to the nature of the unrepentant, manipulative predator.

    This is the only way to protect those who are actually not predators from the predators. Our prisons right now sound generally chaotic and uncontrolled, undisciplined to me.

  12. Mike Devx says

    I should add that those convicted for drug use, and those who were convicted of ‘group crimes’ where they were simply followers, are the non-predators; they lack discipline and are followers, easily manipulated. They would also benefit from a tightly controlled, highly regulated environment.

    Why don’t prisoners have standard, simple “uniforms”? This prisoner, despite still having all the male sexual equipment, dressed and acted like a female. Standard uniforms and haircuts, etc, would solve some of the problems faced by this gender-confused prisoner (who is highly likely not one of the predators either).

    If what I’m describing sounds like military basic training to the N’th degree, you’d have it pegged exactly.

  13. says

    Hi Scott,

    Thanks for the reply, but I wasn’t just talking about debating policy; I want to revolutionize the prison system to completely take control away from the prisoners and utterly minimize prisoner interaction. I want prison to be a solitary experience that no one would want to repeat. No amenities, no interactions, no diversions, no amusements, just individual human beings asking themselves whether they ever want to experience jail again. Again, what would you do? By the way, of all the people you could organize to advocate for, why prisoners? Why not organize to advocate for victims?

  14. says

    I want to revolutionize the prison system to completely take control away from the prisoners and utterly minimize prisoner interaction.

    But that’ll be torture Don. So how will you combat Amnesty and ACLU?

  15. says

    A lot of things make no sense. It didn’t stop Amnesty, ACLU, and CAIR from making them into reality, though. So how will you combat them? You say it is not torture, they will say it is.

  16. JJ says

    Jeez – sounds like a pretty easily paralyzed group you were with, Scott. As Mike said, what a bunch of delicate plants that must have been – not to mention very unlike most Jesuits I’ve ever encountered. They’ve tended to be pretty tough and mentally agile guys, who don’t get shocked by very much.

    How you make the leap from making prison into prison to deciding it’s torture I’m not sure either. If prison behaved like it’s supposed to behave it would be normative and usual punishment, which is what it’s supposed to be. As it is, the concept of “punishment” is mostly lost. Perhaps it’s time to bring it back. DQ wants to “take control from the prisoners,” – how did they ever get control to begin with? That was the mistake right there.

  17. says

    Small fry criminals never could cause societal destabilization level actions by themselves. Even networked together they can’t because they distrust each other and don’t like working as a team precisely because the yare narcissistic.

    However, a grand ideology or a spiritual leader in the form of the ACLU, backed by free college lawyer interns and various other big money supports like Soros, has the capacity to bind evil together into a truly destructive force. Rising above petty limitations such as distrust, simply by promising people that they will acquire rewards beyond their imagination and see theie (the criminals’) enemies brought low and destroyed.

  18. Scott in SF says

    Cut the bravado and admit you are completely ignorant of what it is like to be in a prison! Mike, JJ and whoever else has opinions based on hot air.

  19. Mike Devx says

    Scott, it is not bravado. If your advocacy group really were in any danger, you would not have been allowed to walk through the area. Being frozen into immobility is likely an exaggeration on your part; that’s what I was commenting on. But I’m guilty of exaggeration as well.

    Most hard core criminals are predators. Others in prison are simply weak-minded, lack all self-discipline, and are easily led and manipulated. That’s a combination for a very poor insular “society” such as that in prisons. That’s why I advocate so strongly for an approach that is entirely based on discipline and punishment. That, and the fact that I am skeptical that a lax prison culture can lead to rehabilitation.

  20. says

    There is no movie, and no picture book that can give you an accurate idea of what prison is like.

    That doesn’t even matter due to the fact that good policies are good regardless of what someone thinks of prison.

    How can we debate policy about the intricate workings of a place we haven’t seen?

    People do it all the time, it’s called the Human Condition.

    Moral and effective solutions can only come from realistic assessments of what is actually happening

    Moral and effective solutions come from killing and inflicting pain on those that get out of line in attempting to hurt humanity.

    The reason? If you don’t follow those instructions you will go into shock and not be able to move.

    Grace us with your knowledge and wisdom then. Given your experience, you must obviously have come to the Righteous conclusion for what policies should be applied to prison and prisoners.

    In the end, people are different. Some folks see such and go into shock. Others see such and only see meat targets. Others see the same such and feel compassion. Whatever. Humanity is manifold and that is another direct consequence of the Condition.

    Cut the bravado and admit you are completely ignorant of what it is like to be in a prison!

    Why don’t you stick to the subject instead of using a logically fallacious appeal to authority.

    Mike Devx has done his part in introducing solutions, ones I like. What have you done if “debate” is your goal? I suppose attacking the messenger rather than the message is a debate, but not one I would find of use.

    Knowledge is manifold, diverse, and unlimited. Nobody has it all, so don’t act like your experience of going to a prison makes you any superior to the rest of us, Scott.

  21. Don't want to tell you cause I'm a defendant in this case says

    Makes your head spin, did mine too, I was one of the many being sued…the facts that you stated are fairly accurate…Not like the one sidedness of the AP story…to help answer your questions
    #1. Inmate Giraldo, Edwin is his real name, in this lawsuit the plantiff had changed the name to Alexis…His inmate picture he looked like a normal inmate, hair longer than most, but not as long as others…He wore no makeup when I saw “Edwin” and didn’t have female breat, but he testified in court that he had breast and wore makeup…To this day he has small breast (for a woman).

    #2. I refuse to this day to call him she, I don’t want to insult Edwin or Alexis, that is not why I refuse, Its not that I have a dislike for those who don’t have the same sexual attractions that I do…and I have no ax to grind with Transgenders either….I treat people how they treat me…even if I don’t agree with them…For me to call the plantiff a she would be me admitting that he is a she, Its like admitting that the state of CA is guilty….and they are not. The state of CA uses what part south of the equator you have as determining if you are a he or a she…so do 48 other states and the feds do as well. Not knowing any better solution I have no problem with this policy…This does not include those who are born with both parts…I am totally sympathetic to their situation and I believe the state of CA is as well.

    # 3. Yes we the tax payers do pay for their hormones…and they aren’t cheap either…I believe it cost anywhere from 800-1200 every 2 weeks for their shots…gee I wonder if that is a motivator for the lawsuit…get some easy cash to pay for the change? It obviously wasn’t based in fact! Am I angry? Hell yeah…bitter? maybe…you would to if you’d been subjected to all these lies from the plantiff.

    I’d like to make one more comment to the one that said that he would release drug offenders, or wouldn’t incarcerate them…People are not put in prison for just being a drug addict…they are put in prison for the crimes that they do to support their drug habbit…most first time offenders have 18 felonies before they ever step foot in a state prison…here are some stats for you to ponder…76% of male prisoners have a substance abuse problem before coming to prison…83% of female inmates have a substance abuse problem…that does not include alcoholism…again people aren’t thrown in prison because they snorted some coke, smoked some dope etc…now trafficing and the other crimes associated with drugs will get you thrown in really quick…

  22. says

    I checked it out and #28 is who s/he says s/he is. Interesting facts, made more interesting because they come from someone in the center of the maelstrom (or should I say “malestrom” or “shemalestrom”?).

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