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Updated Research Ideas

smalina's picture

After looking into the sources I included in my original research proposal, I have found a number of categories under which my information falls: the presence of transgender individuals in prison (this would include their disproportionate representation in prisons as well as numbers related to incarceration in single-sex prisons; are they in the prison that corresponds to their gender identity, and if not, what physical change would lead to their transfer), the availability of medical resources to transgender prisoners related to transition (i.e. hormones and gender affirmation surgery), and the history of court proceedings that make this treatment possible (including the cases of Michelle Kosilek and Michelle-Lael Norsworthy). I expect that this third category will tie most directly into my interest in prison mental health, as the DSM and diagnoses of Gender Identity Disorder and Gender Dysphoria have frequently been employed in cases as an argument for the necessity of medical intervention. Additionally, I think I could find a lot of interesting information on the comorbidity of depression and gender dysphoria in incarcerated people

So far, it looks like the most informative source I have already found is the article on health care policies addressing transgender inmates in the United States. This includes statistical information on the availability of hormone treatments for transgender inmates, along with information on how inmates were evaluated towards diagnoses. It also addresses the essentially universal refusal of support for gender affirmation surgeries. On another level, this source and others are interesting in terms of the language they use around these processes--there is a point (when the DSM-V was published) that "Gender Identity Disorder" became obsolete as a term, and "Gender Dysphoria" took its place. However, "sex change operation" is still used, despite the recent more frequent usage of "gender reassignment/confirmation/affirmation surgery" by the rest of the medical community. I wonder if this delay in the adoption of appropriate gender-related language by the prison medical community is mirrored in other parts of the prison healthcare system.

A more extensive look into court records related to this topic should answer some questions I have about the defenses' repeated appeals to decisions made in favor of transgender inmates. Why are they able to overturn the decision so consistently? What actual evidence is on their side, especially considering the employment of official diagnoses on the part of the prosecution? 

This research has gotten me thinnking about the connections between my topic and Abby's, as so much of the public's opinion on transgender prisoners seems deeply and intrinsically related to the understanding of the incarcerated individual as nothing more than a "criminal." What makes us see people through this single lens? For so many, the argument against the prison healthcare system providing gender-related treatment is that "they are murderers," and thus do not deserve such extensive intervention. However, when living in a body that matches your gender identity is considered a human right, we must come both come to see the criminal as a human being and recognize that they deserve this treatment simply by nature of this fact. For those who already hold prejudice against transgender people, the inmate as a transgender person may only add to their image as a "perverted criminal" worthy of being locked up and kept at a distance from the rest of society. This, again, connects back to the relationship between transgender inmates and mental illness, as my initial reaction to the use of mental health diagnoses in trials was that it would make the inmate seem merely "crazy," and become further alienated from outside society. 

I also wonder how much overlap there will be between my topics and Rhett's and Joie's--and whether we should be moving towards a more direct collaboration, in order to work together on a final project (still trying hard to avoid thinking of the "container" before I have my content--it's so against my nature!).




Joie Rose's picture

Joie's Research

It has been well established that denying people who are in prison the right to necessary health care is unconstitutional, and it has also been sufficiently established that hormone therapy, and other treatments/surgeries fall under the category of necessary health care for trans individuals. However, conventional wisdom dictates that more often not, health care for trans individuals in prison is incredibly lacking. There are also a myriad of social factors that contribute to trans individuals becoming incarcerated in disproportionate numbers compared to cis individuals.

According to the 2011 survey project, “Injustice at Every Turn”, trans individuals experience unemployment, employment discrimination, sexual harassment and abuse, physical and verbal violence, and inadequate health care at incredibly disproportionate intervals compared to cis individuals. These factors all contribute to the oppressive social structure that is breeding an increased trans population in prisons.

While there is some research done on the health care available to trans individuals in prisons, (for example, court transcripts that outline court appeals for adequate healthcare implementation, ACLU actions that work towards requiring trans-specific health care to be available in prisons, and varied journal articles on the morality and ethics of denying trans individuals trans-specific health care in prison) there is little to no research on the niche topic of neonatal health care for trans men and reproductive health care for trans-individuals in prison.

I am hoping to start gathering more information on this topic through different channels that both colleagues and myself are affiliated with as a means to glean whether or not this is really a viable topic to research. However, in the meantime I will broaden my research to encompass the accessibility and adequacy of reproductive health care for all incarcerated individuals, while focusing primarily on neonatal access.

As for a cumulative end to this project, I am hoping to incorporate sculpture and clay into aspects of the final project, as well as possibly poetry and prose. I have not yet decided how this art and research will be combined but as I continue my research, narrow down my focus and work on what is feasible, I should have a better idea of what I want.


rb.richx's picture

David Coates, The Oxford Companion to American Politics, Volume 2. p.248-249
isbn 9780199764310

     What then of gender and men’s imprisonment? Men make up the vast majority of prisoners. Their institutions often appear to be marked out by a culture of hypermasculinity. Long sentences combined with limited recreation, paid work, or activity of any kind, make it hard for many men to cope. Certainly many men's prisons in the United States have a dangerous reputation—one that, like the numbers of the incarcerated, is not matched in other liberal democracies. Problems of prison rape and gang membership are rare elsewhere, whereas in America they have come to define male incarceration.
     The federal government acknowledged the problem of sexual violence in US prisons in passing the Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003, which requires all penal systems to report and address prison rape. Such federal law seems far removed from day to day life behind bars. There, and notwithstanding the widespread commitment to “gender-responsive programming" in women’s prisons that encourages an appreciation of women’s special vulnerabilities and needs, there has been no particular attention paid to the development of a correctional language or programming for men as men. Many activities that might have previously occupied some men have been terminated because of policies that have endorsed so-called no-frills prisons. Even before the recent budget cuts following the economic crisis that began in 2008, prisons no longer have gym equipment or paid work of any sort. Such places hold men (and some women) for years with nothing or very little to do.

American politicians have become used to, and have benefited greatly from, “governing through crime"… Yet, “governing through crime" has not only produced penal excess, it has also exacerbated and enforced bitter racial politics and entrenched an essentialist view of gender that divides communities from one another. Given that most prisoners, no matter how long their sentences, will eventually return, such divisions and bitterness ultimately seep into the broader community. Prisons that fail to address gendered violence, for example, or those that by continuing to racially segregate maintain suspicion and hostility among different groups, have a collateral effect on us all. The current financial crisis offers everyone an opportunity not only to reduce the nations reliance on the prison, but also to examine its relationship with the politics and lived experience of race and gender.

rb.richx's picture

this format (commenting on a single post) isn't as editable as i thought... could we make webby posts to map out ideas? or do y'all have other ideas..?