I’ve started getting involved with prison activism lately, as California has a very big prison problem. This book, “Queer (In)justice”, took maybe 20 pages to blow my mind and several more to show me just how poisonous prisons are to everything else, so I found the small subset of a queer activist group that works on prison justice, and they’ve connected me to volunteer opportunities at the Transgender, Gender-Variant and Intersex Justice Project, and the people who run that are amazing. But as with all the activism I’ve become part of, it so often seems like I can learn a lot more than I can affect. Until, perhaps, I have great ideas and apply them.
Speaking of learning:
I should be worried about recent bad news: media access to prisoners in California was severely curtailed in 1996, and Governor Brown just vetoed a bill that would lift those restrictions.
But what feels worse, actually, is the good news: the bills he did sign. The first is that women* prisoners will now be unshackled while giving birth. Now, if they’re giving birth, no more putting chains on their legs and waist and so on. And the second is that youth who have been sentenced to “life without parole” before the age of 18 have a chance to get case reviews that could reduce their sentences to 25 years.
There are no words to describe my feelings about this. The “inhumanity” of humanity. “Some type of way”, a hundred different ways…
Speaking of doing:
Incarcerated trans women, who are usually placed in men’s prisons, are particularly likely to suffer abuse by other prisoners or guards. Many are placed in solitary confinement for “protection” or to spare the prison officials’ gender anxieties; but that is usually far more emotionally traumatic, and doesn’t protect them from the guards. There are two trans women in solitary confinement in California right now, named Amazon and Cat who are on hunger strike. You can support them with a phone call, an email, or letter, but please, if you have a few minutes and especially if it is daytime, read their words and support them.
*I really, really hope that they mean all prisoners giving birth, and would not affirm someone’s transgender identity long enough to get around the law. But quite honestly you never know what people will do when they learn the taste of the power to control others out of sight, out of mind.