Filed under: Action, Incarceration, Midwest, Queer, Trans
This past Wednesday, October 12th, 2016, members of First of May Anarchist Alliance joined with dozens of others rallying from across Michigan to stand in solidarity with LGTBQ prisoners. The demo was at the Michigan Department of Corrections in Lansing, Michigan.
From the organization, Interupt:
Some photos (thx to Alejo) from today’s “Can’t Cage Our Humanity” rally in solidarity with Michigan LGBTQ prisoners, held outside the Michigan Department of Corrections headquarters in Lansing. Some 50 folks handed out literature that included the prisoners’ demands; heard words/poems/audio from queer & trans people currently incarcerated; filled the sidewalks and street with banners; and let LGBTQ folks inside know that they aren’t alone — and continued to build on good, old and new interconnections between each other.
In April, queer and trans prisoners at the G. Robert Cotton facility in Jackson filed grievances against a guard named Castilla for sexual harassment. Retaliation began almost immediately, with Castilla and his friends issuing bogus disciplinary tickets against the grieving prisoners. Three of seven prisoners were transferred to other units or facilities. The grievances were all eventually rejected for “insufficient evidence” (despite multiple witnesses) and Castilla and other homophobic guards continue their illegal behavior. We hear reports of the exact same thing happening at other Michigan prisons (multiple witnesses dismissed as “insufficient evidence”). Sexual harassment of prisoners is a violation of the federal Prison Rape Elimination Act.
Apart from more people becoming aware of the issue, nothing has materially improved since we last rallied in solidarity with the prisoners in May. The Legislative Corrections Ombudsman’s office launched an investigation and spoke with trans prisoners at Cotton, but nothing has changed for the better yet. Prisoners have filed more grievances against Castilla and other homophobic guards (Hursh, Morey, Funches, Johnson, Taylor, and Van Sumeran). Meanwhile, these guards have ganged up to retaliate against the prisoners for standing up for their rights. Queer and trans prisoners are getting more bogus tickets; for example, one prisoner was ticketed for sexual misconduct for tucking in his shirt! They are given excessive sanctions, such as 35 days of lost privileges for an offense that would normally carry only five days of punishment. Prisoners have been denied the right to review the supposed evidence against them and grievance officers have refused to review camera footage to prove prisoners’ innocence.
Queer and trans prisoners want the public to know about the corruption in prison and want our help to amplify their voices. Please spread the word!
Here are some of their issues and demands:
– Zero tolerance for harassment or brutality by prison staff.
– NO RETALIATION for filing grievances.
– Guards who sexually harass prisoners should be removed from their units when they’re under investigation, per MDOC’s own policy.
– These homophobic guards already have dozens or, in some cases, over a hundred grievances against them. They should be removed from all contact with prisoners.
– Staff should be prohibited from forming cliques for purposes of retaliating against prisoners who file grievances.
– Staff should be required to follow MDOC’s own policies and federal policies that protect the rights of prisoners.
– Guards should be disciplined for talking about queer and trans prisoners in dehumanizing, denigrating ways to other prisoners, endangering their safety. This is already against MDOC policy.
– MDOC must provide better training for staff on professional, nondiscriminatory treatment of queer and trans people.
– Queer and trans prisoners should have the voluntary option of a designated unit or facility and yard where they are safe from sexual harassment and assault.
– Appropriate medical care.
– Trans prisoners should be able to keep hormones in their quarters. In recent months, hormones have been put on “restricted” status, forcing all trans prisoners to request them every day. Hormones are prisoners’ personal business.
– End corruption at MDOC, such as misappropriation of the Prisoner Benefit Fund.