Leave it to the Commonwealth of Virginia to treat Transgender people in this inhumane fashion. It is cruel and unusual punishment to put anyone into isolation and especially Transgender people who are subject to suicidal ideation. Isolation is a barbaric punishment taken from the Dark Ages with absolutely no positive results, but this is Virginia, the right to discriminate state.
This is not a unique case in Virginia. Within the last year a Transgender sister in Virginia Beach, VA was incarcerated in the Virginia Beach City Jail. The charges were minor, but she was placed into isolation first and then administrative segregation which in the jail is similar to isolation. She requested to be placed into the general population but her requests were denied. She was ridiculed by the sheriffs. They taunted her with "it" and "he-she" and "she-male." Finally, she was released into home bound custody wearing an ankle radio transmitter which she had to pay a hundred dollars a week. Better than prison, yet still she was imprisoned in her own home. Her parole officer and the courts refused to allow her to attend Transgender support groups or visits to the local Trans clinic.
The irony here is that the DC correctional facility in Lorton, VA is a little more advanced than the said Virginia prison in treating Transgender people with dignity.
The only good news for Ms. Santamaria is that she might be transferred to a Federal correctional facility which supposedly is experienced in dealing with Transgender people. Until then, she suffers in isolation.
By: FREEMAN KLOPOTT
Examiner Staff Writer
December 31, 2009
A transgendered woman convicted of drug trafficking has been locked down in solitary confinement for the past six months in a Virginia jail because they feared she would be raped by fellow male prisoners, a jail official said.
Maria Benita Santamaria, 35, pleaded guilty to trafficking 10 pounds of methamphetamine in August. She was arrested at a Lorton Comfort Inn in June and was held without bail.
Santamaria was born a man, but lives life as a woman and has a feminine appearance, her attorney, Cathy Alterman told The Examiner. For the past two years she has been undergoing hormone treatment in preparation for a sex change operation.
Central Virginia Regional Jail officials labeled Santamaria as a vulnerable victim and kept her out of the general male population where, Deputy Superintendent Susan Fletcher said, they believed she risked being raped.
Despite that, "[Santamaria] has repeatedly tried to convince jail personnel that she is willing to risk being in general population," court documents said.
That's because Santamaria "is treated no differently than inmates on punitive lockdown," Alterman said. Santamaria is let out of her cell for one hour a day and allowed to shower every three days. Her solitary cell has no windows and Santamaria has considered suicide, Alterman said.
"It's a form of mental abuse," Alterman said. "The guards refer to her as 'it' ... it is beyond their [understanding] to treat her like a woman."
Fletcher said, "we were presented with a situation and the only way we could handle it was by placing the person in an isolated setting for her own safety. Is that less than pleasurable? Yeah."
Not all jails and prisons in the Washington area place transgendered inmates on lockdown.
In Montgomery County, "their gender for housing purposes is based on their anatomical presentation," jail director Arthur Wallenstein said. "Any prisoner with medical, psychological or behavioral issues may be segregated on a case-by-case basis." Separated inmates are assigned to a crisis unit, where they may be closely watched, but are not locked down, he said.
Maryland's prison system places inmates in a similar fashion, spokesman Mark Vernarelli said. An inmate who is determined to be in danger, would be placed in a regular, but separated housing unit.
On Dec. 18 Santamaria was sentenced to nearly six years in prison. U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis ordered her sent to a federal prison that can provide transgendered treatment and counseling.
As of Wednesday, Santamaria was still in Central Virginia Regional Jail awaiting transfer, Alterman said.
WASHINGTON - A transgender woman convicted of drug trafficking has spent six months in solitary confinement in a Virginia jail because officials believe she would be raped by male prisoners.
Thirty-five-year-old Maria Benita Santamaria was born a man but lives as a woman. In August she pleaded guilty to trafficking 10 pounds of methamphetamine. For the past two years she has been undergoing hormone treatment in preparation for a sex change operation.
Santamaria was willing to risk being in general population but jail officials kept her out. Now, however, she'll be moved. Earlier in December Santamaria was sentenced to nearly six years in prison. A judge ordered her sent to a federal prison that can provide transgendered treatment and counseling.Original Article