Tuesday, November 18, 2008

In conclusion....

I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has contributed to this ongoing blog. Through networking and classroom discussion we have elicited the assistance of many different people along our journey of creating this blog. I hope all of our followers have enjoyed reading our posts as much as our group has enjoyed researching and composing them. We have looked at the issue of Transgender inmates through a critical lens, and have posited possible alternatives to the policy that we have described as discriminating. To all of our followers, please continue to comment on our blog, as we feel that this conversation is important, and there should be a positive space, such as our blog, to debate the needed changes within the prison system.

Thank you! Pat, Lesley, Jaime and Courtney.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Monitoring and Evaluating Transgender Specific Training and Case Management

Following along with Westhues book, outcome and process evaluations will be utilized as a way to monitor the impacts of training and case management. Both workers who receive training and transgender individuals will be included.

Outcome evaluations will parallel the self-determination framework where transgender inmates will self-report their perceptions of goal setting and goal achievement and whether they feel their self esteem and quality of life has increased since implementation of the new policy. This will allow for subjective information about their experiences with their intended goals. Some examples of outcome evaluation questions are as follows: Do their goals reflect their own needs? Did achieving their goals help to make their stay more positive? Have they benefited from ‘inclusive’ goal setting? Also, calculations will be made to determine whether the benefits of the new policy outweigh the costs.

Process evaluations will be used to determine whether the new policy is operating as planned and hate crimes are decreasing. To speak to the quantity of the new policy, information would be gathered about how many clients there are, whether the new policy is serving the intended transgender inmate group, and whether the transgender inmates feel they are receiving Trans positive service. To speak to the quality of the new policy, transgender inmates would be asked about how they have experienced the services available to them. For example, did they feel comfortable with their case worker? Were they able to access services such a healthcare? Did their worker help them achieve their goals? Transgender inmates will again self-report through client satisfaction surveys.

It is important to monitor and evaluate the employees as well to establish how their experience with training is, and whether the new training guidelines are actually changing transphobic attitudes. To do this, evaluations would be used targeting those who have received the training. Information would be gathered through surveys based on how many workers are trained, if they feel the training speaks to the issue, and whether they feel the content was presented in a way to promote understanding. They would also be asked if they learned anything new, and if they feel that this information contributes to the way in which they would treat a transgender individual.

Pros and Cons of Transgender Specific Training and Case Management

Implementing effective case management and transgender specific training come hand in hand. Both can begin as an effort towards consciousness-raising in prisons. The content of the training would need to be consistent across Canada; thus, it would be the same for all prisons.

Implementing inclusive case management is beneficial. First and foremost, there is space for self-determination. The transgender individual has ownership over their own life and their own body. They are seen as having the capacity to make personal life changing decisions, and in doing so, increase their quality of life while incarcerated.

There are many benefits to implementing mandatory transgender specific training. Confronting and deconstructing stereotypes, as well as challenging the discourse about transgendered inmates is essential (Mullaly, 2002); training can serve as a way to accomplish this. It also serves as an educational tool that would help to reduce hate crimes. Training can be consistent when the criteria has been approved and maintained by the Board of Directors and is the same on a national scale across Canada. Consistency in training can contribute to consistencies in the transgender inmate experience. Both training and the collaborative approach to case management can pave the way for reframing dominant ideas about gender identity. Essentially, trainers, workers and case managers can set examples for other inmates as well as themselves. New knowledge may help to create a cycle of acceptance as opposed to oppression.

Mandatory training means that every employee will receive it, however, some workers may just complete the training without changing their attitudes. Problems may surface in training in groups where dominant ideas about gender may be reinforced. By grouping transgender inmates together in order to provide services in prison, they may be seen as a homogenous group. Nevertheless, the anti-oppressive nature of the policy can address these shortcomings. Having Trans positive trainers will help with transforming transphobic workers. Inclusive case management allows the transgender inmate to have the freedom to express their individual needs while it is also an opportunity for the case worker to redefine the relationship and build trust. Furthermore, the goals of recertification and accountability insist that workers will be regularly influenced by Trans positive people, and hold people accountable for any unfair treatment. In order to ensure training and inclusive case management are in conjunction with the aforementioned goals, they will need to be frequently monitored and evaluated.

REFERENCES: Mullaly, B. (2002). Anti-Oppressive Social Work Practice at the Personal and Cultural Levels. In Challenging Oppression: A Critical Approach. Cambridge: Oxford University Press.

Inclusive Case Management

Case management is designed to look at both the static and dynamic factors that are said to contribute to incarceration and re-offending. Currently, offenders are often given a risk/needs assessment which is used to devise an individual intervention plan (www.publicsafety.gc.ca/).

In terms of transgender inmate case management, the goal is to allow transgender inmates the opportunity to be key participants in decisions regarding how their stay will be. Staying within the anti-oppressive lens, the idea is to shift the power relations away from the system to the individual. Further, it is not fair to assume that all transgender inmates require the same treatment. Where there may be consistencies in desires to access job training, legal services, housing, and welfare benefits, there are gender discrepancies in the perceived need for family, child, and parenting skills (Kenagy, Hsieh, 2005).

Recommendations include self-determination of placement, healthcare, and programs and activities by the transgender inmate. As such, collaboration and coordination are essential. The case worker’s role would be to connect the individual to internal resources, with an emphasis on health care options. This would mean creating partnerships and increasing communication between transgender specialists, clinicians, nurses, doctors, and prison guards within the facility, making community or reintegration connections upon release that may include transgender outreach or support programs, probation or parole officers, and/or external healthcare, and building trust through one to one contact. In addition, the present risk/need assessments need to be evaluated in terms of validity and reliability. It would be necessary for the intervention plan to be revised regularly as well, to take into consideration the diversity in intervention needs.

Producing knowledge about the Trans community is fundamental in creating a safe space for open communication. Case management should be inclusive and empowering. The transgender inmate’s input should be at the forefront of the agenda, after all, they are the experts in their lived experiences.

REFERENCES: Kenagy G.P., Hsieh C. (2005). Gender differences in social service needs of transgender people. Journal of Social Service Research, 31(3), 1-21.

Transgender Specific Training

Building on the collective social action necessary to promote anti-oppressive attitudes towards transgender inmates, it is essential to change the personal ideas, values and beliefs held by prison staff as individuals. As we have mentioned, transgender inmates are exposed to transphobia behind prison walls. To put an end to the ignorance of prison workers, the collective and individual opinions that currently exist need to be challenged, discussed and deconstructed.

The goal is to eliminate the stigma placed on transgendered inmates from inside the institution by creating awareness and understanding through introducing universal staff training across the nation. This would include mandatory transgender-specific training for all employees who work within any correctional facility in Canada serving both male and female populations.

Recommendations to achieve this goal focus on supplying formal education to workers as well as standardizing training practices. Training would be transgender-specific, formulated with input from the Trans community. To create consistency within Canada, universal training of prison employees would be nation wide so that every employee in each facility would have to meet the same set of requirements. Mandatory training would mean that every person who works in the prison setting MUST receive the training prior to their involvement with the inmate population, whereby the worker is evaluated by the trainers, and is certified if they show the ability to meet training requirements. Training would follow on a continuum where recertification would also be mandatory. Failure or refusal to obtain or recertify in the training would result in a legal decision where the employee would not be permitted to work at the facility until such training is carried out.

Training serves as a way to create a cycle where new ideas simultaneously permeate into the perceptions of prison workers and into the institution as a whole. By breaking down collective and personal ideas, prison workers may come together to promote further understanding of the problems specific to transgender inmates.For information on other transgender specific training initiatives, please visit: http://www.scottishtrans.org/Page/Training.aspx , or http://www.vch.ca/transhealth/resources/library/tcpdocs/training-primcare.pdf

Evaluating and Monitoring Transgender Involvement and Board of Directors

Evaluation/Monitoring: How will we know if transgender involvement and the board of directors will be effective in transforming discriminatory transgender inmate policy?

It is not adequate or sufficient enough to merely implement our policy; we also need to be constantly absorbed in the processes of monitoring and evaluating our policy. It is necessary to monitor factors such as the changes in behaviors, actions, activities and relationship interactions between staff, inmates, and other relevant individuals and organizations with which the policy effects directly. By constantly monitoring the efficiency of our newly develop policy, we can determine in which ways transgender individuals and the board of directors have influenced policy development.

In order to gather information and feedback, researchers could draw a simple random sample of transgendered inmates and distribute confidential questionnaires and/or conduct interviews that target specific issues such as discrimination, brutality and social exclusion, which were previously discovered to be detrimental to the transgender inmate’s level of well being while incarcerated. Furthermore, outcome mapping has become more common in exploring the effects of policy change and focus’s specifically on changes in behaviors and relationships which lead to either effective or detrimental actions. This technique recognizes the interplay and complexity of a situation, rather than a focusing on what caused the behavior which previous outcome and monitoring techniques tended to concentrate on. By using these and other techniques, we are able to examine and evaluate whether our policy is effective.

A successfully evaluation will allow the transgendered inmates rights to be heard and protected. Moreover, their suggestions will be transformed into constructive action. Ultimately, we hope the implementation of this policy will move beyond early intervention in the prison system and rather move its focus towards addressing preventative measures. Furthermore, we hope our policy not only improves the overall well being of the transgendered inmate, but also promotes mutually supportive and inclusive communities. An effective policy will allow the transgendered inmate the ability to advance their individual, economical, physical and cultural development.

Given the complexity of behavior, fluid beliefs and attitudes, it is necessary our board of directors participates in, attends to and critically evaluates the policy as well. It is also their responsibility to report on the barriers, pitfalls and benefits of new policy.

Implementation of Policy: The effects of transgender and board of director's involvement

New Policy: Include transgender individuals in policy creation and establish a board of directors responsible for transgender issues in all Canadian prisons.

By including transgender individuals in the creation of policy, we hope to create guiding principles of practice that are specific to the needs of transgender inmates. The board of directors will oversee and approve of any policy creation and/or change while simultaneously working with a liaison or specialist from the prison in order to appropriately manage claims of accountability when a violation of human rights or policy is made.

Implementing a policy that has been created by and caters to the specific needs of transgender individuals, may be a viable approach toward promoting social inclusion, equal access and raising awareness within the larger confines of society. We can begin to include transgender individuals in policy creation a number of ways. By creating focus groups, a discovery process can begin to occur where we as policy makers become educated as to the specific problems the transgender inmate faces on a daily basis. Questions can be created in an interactive setting where participants are free to speak with fellow inmates and researchers as to the implications of current policy and how it can be improved, amended or replaced. If contact with transgender individuals is difficult and problematic, organizations that work directly with transgender individuals may allow policy makers to gain critical insight as to the most appropriate ways of approaching and working with transgender inmates. Moreover, agencies may refer particular transgender individuals to policy makers who may be considered social activists that have already been attempting to create change within the same domains.

The implementation of the board of directors would ensure that our prison and jail systems have an objective intermediary that is responsible for investigating and determining if there is evidence of discrimination and how the issue will be resolved. Preferably, there would be one board of director per province that is knowledgeable and sensitive towards the needs of the transgender individual. We believe that both including transgender individuals in the process of policy creation and by establishing a board of directors, we will be better able to protect the rights of the transgender inmate populace.

Policies Overseen by Board of Directors

In order to ensure that transgendered inmates are being treated fairly and to minimize the opportunity for oppression, it is essential that policy be universal. Universal policies leave less room for prison to prison interpretations of rules and provide transgender inmates with clear cut expectations for their treatment while incarcerated. When policies are universal it is also easier to know when one is being misinterpreted. This is vital to stop human rights violations that are occurring in today’s correctional system.

The goal of universal policies is to take away control from individual jails that may have transphobic leaders or those who are not educated on transgender issues. It is recommended that these policies be made by transgendered people and specialist who are educated on transgender issues and who are trans-positive. The best way to ensure that the policies are relevant and being implemented properly is to have a board of directors responsible for transgender issues in Canadian prisons. This board would overview all aspects of the treatment of transgendered inmates. They would preferably be involved in policy changes, but if not would have to approve of all proposed plans. They would help in the hiring of trans-positive specialist to work with the inmates, and make sure that all staff were completing the mandatory training and held certification to attest to it. The board of directors would also be responsible for staying up to date with current issues and being well-informed of the corrections system and the improvements that need to be made.

The board of directors would ideally be made of transgender people and non transgendered individuals who are trans-positive. This should include but not be limited to SRS specialist, advocates, ex-inmates, and a psychologist. The board would be important because it gives prisons and employees someone to be accountable to when violations of policy or human rights are made.

Currently policies for transgendered inmates are up for interpretation by individual correctional facilities, therefore how an individual is treated and the rights they are afforded are dependent on where they end up serving their time. Furthermore there is really no one to hold jails accountable for their actions. Universal policies and a board of directors would be a good start to stopping oppression for transgender people in our prison system.

Policy Creation: Transgender's involved

In previous blogs, we have been focusing on the repressive and tyrannical nature of law and policy. Policies that claim to protect the lives of the transgender inmate; however, does nothing more than permeate the radical environment in which they find themselves trapped. There are far too many institutional, economic, political, social and cultural dynamics of hierarchy, power and privilege that dominate policy creation. This conveniently guards against any sort of movement building from the individuals whose lives are negatively impacted by the policy.

There is a growing need to challenge these systems of oppression and our goal is to have transgender individuals become involved in the creation of policy. This is by no means simple or straight forward and requires various principles and objectives. We need to create uniform policy that is fair and consistent and accommodates to the unique needs of the transgender inmate. In addition, prison staff must be trained and coached by transgender individuals themselves so they are capable of functioning efficiently with their distinct population.

Various recommendations can be made in carrying through with this process. The first step could be to create awareness of the various discriminatory regulations in place that unfairly restrict the freedom of the transgender inmate. Similarly, ignorance has perpetuated the problem and this atmosphere breeds more oppression. We all need to be participants in some form of social action, challenge it actively, and create a safe space for the transgender inmate. The greater the number of voices means the louder the voice and the greater chance of being heard. Consequently, face-to-face meetings with policy makers are possible. This is going to require the collaboration, cooperation and solidarity of current policy makers. It is necessary that they provide skills, education and resources in order create effective, long standing and operational policy. Similarly, policy makers can take the time to learn from the transgender community and build meaningful relationships that make a difference.

It may be difficult to change oppressive organizational structure and personal behaviors or even erase the grievances of previous marginalized inmates but there is no reason why transgender individuals should not live an oppression-free existence whether it is in prison or elsewhere.

Monitoring and Evaluating Impact of Using the Media

Though it has been proven time and time again that the media influences society daily, it is not sufficient just to rely on this knowledge. We know our message will be heard and seen but whether it has an impact is what is important. In order to find out if our campaign has been effective it must be thoroughly monitored and evaluated.

To truly know what kind of effect our campaign has had it is imperative that baseline data is collected before the campaign is launched. The data could be collected by a survey and/or questionnaires with very basic questions about attitudes towards transgendered people. Baseline data lets researchers know a groups’ opinion before the project and then is used for comparison when the project is finished. When the media campaign has completed its run, post completion research would be conducted, using the same indicators as the baseline to note any changes or variations. Using these methods in conjunction with each other can give us a good indication as to what type of shift has been made in the public’s attitudes. The only really disadvantage of this type of research is that without the ability to use a focus group, it is hard to know whether change is attributed to the campaign or other factors.

That being said, it is important to not only evaluate the campaign in the beginning and the end but also to be monitoring its impact throughout its full run. In our case this would be best achieved by using outcome evaluation methods, mainly random survey throughout the campaign to judge attitudes towards transgendered people. It would also be beneficial to hold focus groups and community meetings to get feedback on the media campaign, both its success and failures.

Because the whole point of the campaign is to promote trans-positive attitudes it would be important to get feedback from the transgendered community to make sure they are feeling properly represented. This data could be collected qualitatively during and after the campaign. It would also be useful to collect some quantitative data in terms of hate crimes towards transgendered individuals before and after the campaign. These numbers could be collected from correctional facilities and local police forces.

After the success of the campaign has been evaluated, it would be important to decide if another large scale mass-media campaign would be needed or whether it should be followed up by a smaller scale campaign. The transgender population has been unfairly stigmatized in Canada for far too long and unfortunately one media campaign, not matter how effective, will not entirely change people’s attitudes, but it is a good first step. A step, we hope, will lead to a future where transgendered people can live their lives without fear and be seen for who they really are away from prejudice and labels in a trans-positive society. Here’s to hoping!

Using The Media to Make Canada More Trans-Positive

Changing hateful and discriminatory attitudes is not an easy task. Yet in order for our proposed policy to be effective this is what needs to be accomplished. The media has long been seen as a medium used to influence people’s attitudes, actions and believes; and with today’s growing technology it has become even easier to reach a higher number of potential message recipients (Bryant and Zillmann, 2002). Every day we are subjected to messages from companies of consumer goods, the entertainment industry, politicians, and everyone in-between. We process and are influenced by these messages both consciously and subconsciously many times a day.

In conjunction with implementing policy changes within the prison, as described in previous blogs, a mass media campaign would be launched in order to help create a more trans-positive society and a large reduction in hate crimes. Research shows that when introducing any media campaign there are rules that need to be followed (Bryant and Zillmann, 2002). Firstly it is imperative that the campaign start out small and build slowly. For our trans-positive campaign the message would start through blogs, websites and print ads, then move to television and billboards, and finally to featured stories, public services announcements and documentaries. This progressive strategy seems to legitimize the message in the eyes of the public. It is also important to make sure your message comes across strong and relevant to the audience. For example, in our campaign to stop hate crimes, it would be impactual to use statistics as well as personal stories. Lastly research has proven that the source of the message has an effect on the effectiveness of the campaign. It is important that the message comes from a neutral or unstigmatized group. Considering that transgender people are extremely stigmatized is it vital for this campaign to have outside groups backing it; for example, the Canadian government and/or local human rights groups.

Implementing a successful media campaign will be a long and hard process, one that does carry a financial burden, but if it educates and helps shift public attitudes towards being trans-positive, then surely the benefits would outweigh the costs both inside and outside the prison walls.
Bryant, J. and Zillmann, D. (2002). Media Effects: Advances in Theory and Research
Tuscaloosa, AL: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Accountability in Prison

Canada’s history is tainted by generations of hatred towards certain groups of people. "Hatred of Jews, homosexuals, gypsies, people with different political ideas, anyone who was different from the average white Christian." www.canadianinjustice.com/history_of_hate.htm. This type of hatred still exists today, and is not only perpetuated by average citizens; it is an ongoing systemic process. "There is still one group that you, government, courts, and politicians can hate. The criminal." www.canadianinjustice.com/history_of_hate.htm. When compiling a "criminal’s" identity with another label, such as transgender, it makes that individual even more of a target for hate within the prison system.

In terms of policy changes there are many goals that we must establish in order to reach our objectives. Our objectives are to keep transgender people safe in Canadian prisons. Secondly we would like to help provide the best quality of life possible within prison. This will be accomplished alongside our objective of eliminating bigoted jail guards, through education, and last resort, suspension or termination of oppressive guards. By educating the prisoners and guards we are hoping this increased knowledge will translate into a safer prison system.

Our goals that we must implement in order to reach the desired result, of a safer prison system for transgendered individuals, are first, decrease hate crimes and transphobia in prisons. Secondly, we must hold jail staff accountable for transphobic actions and hateful speech. Our third goal is to establish new policy, using the input of the Trans community, in order to punish transphobia within the prison system. Lastly, but most importantly, we would like to have mandatory education and training programs, for guards and inmates, on hate crimes and transphobia.

These goals can be directly translated into our recommendations to improve the incarcerated lives of transgender individuals. We recommend education and training. We recommend accountability in terms of hate crimes. Lastly we recommend, and frankly should expect, to implement new policy that protects the lives of all people, including trans individuals, within the Canadian prison system.

Policy Creation: Involvement of Transgender Specialist

In order to carry on with our goal of creating uniform, fair and non-discriminatory policy to protect incarcerated transgendered inmates, our recommendation is to hire a specialist that will advocate for the rights of the transgendered inmate.

The specialist will preferably be a transgender themselves, and an advocate who is aware and understands the complexities of the transgender community. In order to create objectivity and impartiality, this individual should not be hired by the prison or jail system. This recommendation is formed upon the reality that prison staff are not educated on the unique needs of the transgendered inmate, and as previously mentioned may have long standing bias which directly influence the way they treat the transgender inmate. As a result, transgender inmates have minimal support within the prison system, feel uncomfortable speaking to staff and ultimately feel helpless if they are victimized. When vulnerable individuals are left alone and isolated, they are at defenseless, helpless and ultimately at risk for further maltreatment. In the following section we will discuss various aims and objectives we hope our specialist will fulfill.

The role of this specialist would be to cater to the victims of abuse or violence during their time spent in confinement. The specialist will be responsible for initiating inter-agency collaboration in order to coordinate safety planning strategies such as fair and consistent responses and penalties for discriminatory behavior towards the transgender inmate. Thus, they should understand the practices and politics of law enforcement and the prison system. The specialist will provide information and insight about how the criminal justice system works and when necessary support the inmate during court proceedings. The specialist will act as a consultant and provide information and support in order for the victim to decide how best to protect their interests and attain a level of security. However, they shouldn’t let their personal views dominate the work with their inmates. It is important that this person displays characteristic such as empathy, compassion and kindness.

Specialists that become involved in policy creation and work directly with transgender inmates in prison have similar positions to those of an advocate. For more information on this role, please visit http://www.gain.org.uk/index.htm

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

A Humanist Approach to Prison Life

Now that implementation of the modified policy has been explored, it is crucial to understand and proceed in pinpointing the ways in which we will monitor and evaluate this new policy. We will use specific methods of monitoring and evaluating, expressed in Westhues book, "Canadian Social Policy, in order to measure the progress of our policy and program. The humanist approach is the approach that we will use in order to monitor and evaluate the progress of our policy and program within the prison system.
In order to monitor and evaluate the progress of the Commissioner’s Directive 800 policy we will approach the process from a humanist perspective. By approaching the monitoring from this angle we will focus on qualitative research as opposed to quantitative. Unlike quantitative research we believe that we will be able to gain greater insight into the program and people affected, through the gathering of qualitative research. Our monitoring will be a hands on process, which means the researcher will serve as an advocate for change, rather that measuring progress like a positivist, who would use information simply for assessment purposes (Westhues, 2006). Lastly, our humanist approach would allow for goals that encourage self-determination, which is directly in line with our goals in terms of transgender surgeries. This self-determination would finally put power into the hands of the transgender individuals, something that has been distinctly lacking for this community thus far.
Evaluating our policy and program will be achieved through outcome evaluations. Is our program having the desired effect? Using a humanist approach we will focus on the achievements of the individual; we will look at the goals of the people within the program. Cost-benefit analysis will be used by attaching a monetary value to the benefits afforded the Trans individuals. A process evaluation will be used to gain insight into how the program is operating. Is it operating how we intended this program to operate? Are the intended services being delivered to the desired population? All of these answers will be answered within this process evaluation by using client satisfaction surveys.
Monitoring and evaluating is a critical part of the process when initiating policy changes. Pros and cons, that were not anticipated, will surface throughout the life span of the policy and program. Through monitoring and evaluating we will be able to modify our policy in order to achieve the best result for our population of transgender inmates. By understanding that policies need constant re-evaluation we will be able to better meet the needs of the anticipated clients, including incarcerated transgendered individuals.

Presentation- Pros and Cons of Policy Revision

Throughout the development of this blog, goals and objectives were proposed as well as recommendations for the improvement of Commissioner’s Directive 800. Pros and Cons of our new policy will now be explored within this improved version of the Commissioner’s Directive 800. By enacting this new policy we hope to eliminate the discrimination and hurdles that are inherent within this policy in the hopes of improving the quality of life for incarcerated transgendered individuals. Pros and cons will be assessed in terms of the new policy, as it is crucial to be constantly re-examining the new policy and its effects on the intended program.

Original Policy: Gender Identity Disorder
1. Sex reassignment surgery shall be considered during incarceration only when:
a. A recognized gender identity specialist has confirmed that the offender has satisfied the real life test, as described in the Harry Benjamin Standards of Care, for a minimum of one year prior to incarceration; and
b. The recognized gender identity specialist recommends surgery during incarceration.

The New Policy: Transgendered Individuals (eliminate the pathologizing of the individual)
1. Sex Reassignment Surgery for Transgendered people in prison will be a self-determining process between the transgendered individual and the specialist of their choice.
a. Mandatory Transgender specific training and certification for all prison staff.
b. Prison staff accountability for hate crimes and hate speech.
c. Board of directors would oversee all aspects of the treatment of Transgender inmates.
Pros of this new policy, that have been pinpointed, revolve around increased respect for the incarcerated transgendered individual by allowing for Trans empowerment through flexibility, access and self-determination. One positive aspect of the new policy is in the way this policy will allow for flexibility in terms of lengths of life tests. We will also allow access to previous doctors that were being utilized in the individual’s community, thus decreasing the risk of receiving medical care from a transphobic doctor. Next we will encourage input from the individual in determining their own life path. Lastly, we will decrease the ammount of hate crimes by enacting mandatory education programs for prison staff. All of these positive steps within our revised policy will be monitored by a board of directors in order to ensure quality of implementation. Client satisfaction surveys will also be utilized in order to assess whether these factors are in fact "pros" within our new policy. Surveys will be used in order to measure levels of efficacy in reaching the desired population.

The pros of this policy are plentiful, and looking through an anti-oppressive lens the cons seem fairly minimal. However, some individuals would argue, from a cost benefit perspective, that this new policy is too costly, although, I would tend to argue just the opposite. By placing a monetary value to the new and improved quality of life for the Trans individual, we would be able to see that this policy is indeed cost effective. Another negative aspect of this changed policy, from certain perspectives, would be increased workload for Jail staff, as they would be required to attend and be certified in Trans specific programming. Although, looking again through an anti-oppressive lens this negative could easily be seen as a positive step towards eliminating discrimination within the prison system.

The myriad positive aspects of this improved policy far outweigh the negatives, as we are ultimately eliminating government sanctioned systemic oppression of transgendered individuals in the prison system. There are many ways that the incarcerated transgender individual would benefit from this policy change and implementation. Pros include: Trans empowerment, increased self-determination, decreased hate crimes through trans education and specific ways of monitoring the lives of Trans individuals in prisons, through use of a board of directors. In order to begin the implementation process we will draw from sources such as the media, internet(see you tube clip), feature stories and news releases. Due to the fact that this implementation is in its infancy, monitoring and evaluating is the crucial next step in ensuring success. Although we have stated the pros and cons of this policy, we must continue to assess these factors, as new pros and cons will undoubtedly surface. Through consistent monitoring we will be able to pinpoint needed change within the policy in order to devise a policy that works towards the best possible quality of life for Trans people in prison.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Flexibility to be Fair

Under Commissioner’s Directive 800, a prisoner has to have completed a year of his or her RLE at the time of their incarceration in order to even be considered for surgery. This means that if a transgender individual enters prison after only completing eleven or ten months of their RLE, they will not even be considered for SRS during their sentence. As we’ve discussed in previous blogs, the RLE is in itself a discriminatory practice that should be revised and/or optional, however until that happens it is still a requirement for transgender inmates who want to have SRS. Yet currently the policy only applies to transpeople at a certain point in their transition and excludes all others.

Those at an earlier stage of their transition can continue to take hormones but will be stuck in that stage of transitioning until their release, regardless of how long their sentence is. This is not only inequitable but can also prove to be dangerous. Transgendered prisoners faced with the refusal or option of surgery are likely to attempt to further their transformation themselves. Examples of this in prison are usually stories of self-castration and mutilation of testicles or breast (http://digitalcommons.pace.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1206&context=lawfaculty). There needs to be some flexibility in length of RLE before incarceration in order to give all transgendered inmates an opportunity at a successful transition.

The goal of flexible standards would be to allow the transgender individual either to continue the RLE while imprisoned or to be evaluated for surgery when they feel prepared, regardless of whether they have completed a full year of the RLE prior to incarceration. Recommendations for this would include allowing self-determination for preparedness for surgery, given the unique nature that transgendered prisoners are in; their incarceration is not necessarily a reflection on their abilities to pass the RLE. This essentially gives back some of the power to transgendered inmates instead of rendering them helpless.

Another important proposal is that the transgendered inmates be allowed to use the doctors or specialists that have worked with them on the outside as references. Since they are the ones that have been with the transgendered individual throughout their transition, they are likely the best judge, along with the inmate, as to their readiness for surgery. By putting the specialist in the prison in touch with the individual’s doctors, they are given a better insight into their lives and motivations to want surgery. This communication will be a key in ensuring that transgendered inmates get a fair chance to transition from a body that feels foreign to them.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Policy Changes to Provide Access

Now that the history of our Commissioners Directive 800 policy has been explored in detail, it is necessary to discuss possible alternatives to this discriminating policy. Possible alternatives would include changing the wording of this policy. By simply modifying specific words within the policy you could completely change the implications affecting transgender individuals in the prison system. As we know there are very negative implications for transgender individuals with the current policy in place. Although, through fairly minimal word changes in the policy we could drastically improve incarcerated life for the Trans community.
The goal intended when we speak about alternative policy development is to break down the barriers for Trans individuals, when seeking access to health care within the prison system. First it is crucial for us all to understand what "access" means. "Getting in the door is the first step but access includes more, such as the quality of services, as well as the spirit in which the service is provided. Access is a commitment." http://www.the519.org/. Access for a Trans person in jail is about respect, and allowing the Trans person to have control over decisions regarding their own bodies.
Breaking down barriers to create this aforementioned access is our next step in eliminating discrimination from this prison policy. Barriers include having the jail’s "specialist" be in control of the Trans person, rather than having the Trans person’s doctor have input. Another barrier is the strict one-year requirement regarding the life test. Lastly, the jail’s "specialist’s" need to "recommend" surgery is a final barrier inhibiting Trans individuals from accessing healthcare, as well as having control over their own bodies.
Recommendations would include having incarcerated transgender individuals’ doctors able to have input into the lives of their patients. Doctors that have spent time with these Trans people, while they were in the community, would have a better idea of the "readiness" of their patients. Also, by making the time restrictions on the duration of life tests a bit less rigid, we could improve the quality of life for many incarcerated Trans people. Lastly, we should eliminate the need for the jail doctor to "recommend" surgery, as this is a monumental barrier for many Trans people trying to gain access to their health care needs.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Impacts of Case by Case Policy

It is a human right for transgendered people to be treated fairly and without discrimination, to have equal rights and opportunities and be recognized for their dignity and worth. Yet, all transgender people in prison are handled on a case by case basis where there is likelihood for personal interpretations of the policy to be projected by prison professionals that fluctuate from one case to the next.
Consistency in a structured environment such as prisons helps to create norms within that environment; consistent practices and principles normalize everyday conduct, attitudes and behaviours. Each transgendered person in prison, however, is scrutinized as an individual and treated separately from others often from a transphobic mindset. When each case is managed differently there is a lack of consistency both in the treatment and the outcomes. It causes confusion, perplexities and uncertainties about the norms pertaining to transgendered inmates. The variance in outcomes also makes it hard to distinguish the best way to go about solving the problem.
Prison professionals may use the inconsistencies as an escape route for their decisions and treatment towards a transgender inmate where they blame the system, not themselves for the discrimination. Other inmates may feed into the lack of consistency and see it as a doorway for justifying their transphobic ideals as well. A case by case framework may be detrimental to a transgender inmate in that they may internalize the negative ways in which they are treated, where their self-worth and self-esteem are diminished. They may also generate mistrusts towards prison professionals. Handling these issues case by case may also cause a divide between other transgender inmates whose experiences with the process are drastically dissimilar.
A universal law may not account for all the injustices faced by a transgender inmate, nevertheless, it may be a good place to start in order to establish a standard in which prison staff are held accountable for any mistreatments, and to abolish multiple interpretations of the policy in any given case. Assembling standards may assist in regulating and normalizing more positive perceptions about transgender inmates and help to protect them from harm.
For more information on human rights and sexual orientation, please visit: http://www.ohrc.on.ca/en/issues/sexual_orientation

Subjective Policy

On the surface, it appears as though this policy protects the transgendered inmate; however, when we dig deeper it becomes clear that this policy is very much subjective and open to interpretation. The policy is not uniform, and for that reason, allegations exclusive to transgender individuals are dealt with on a case by case basis. Furthermore, even if laws were uniform, transgender inmates face differential treatment which is associated with staff ideology.
Before 1918, the laws between provinces were dissimilar and in some cases, contrasting. This problem called for a conference with the intention of harmonizing the laws of the provinces and territories of Canada in 1918. This conference is now held annually in order to identify deficiencies, defects and gaps in existing law. The civil system which constitutes of lawyers, judges, analysts and law reformers meet to discuss possible areas in which provincial and territorial laws would benefit from harmonization. Uniform statutes are drafted by legislative counsel and effective immediately.
Critically speaking, the answer may not lie in trying to create a rigid, obstinate and objective legal system because human beings are multifaceted and complex. We are by nature subjective beings, and according to Niklas Luhmann, this awareness has allowed for the “personalization” of law to occur over time. This process takes into account environmental and individual factors and sees a need to move beyond this concept of a universal and uniform law. Niklas Luhmann’s concept is particularly useful to keep in mind as we enter a time when law and policy is being required to evolve to accommodate for lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender individuals. The assimilation of transgender inmate’s into a prison setting which strictly accommodates toward heterosexual inmates and their values is no longer acceptable. What is needed is recognition of the diversity within institutions and the creation of policy with difference in mind.
Everything considered, it becomes open to discussion whether uniform law and policy are realities, as much as they may be aspirations.

For more information on the Uniform Law Conference of Canada, please visit their website at http://www.ulcc.ca/en/home/

The "Specialist's" Impacts

Commissioner’s Directive 800 number 36 has been established as a very discriminatory policy. There are a plethora of ways that this policy impacts individuals, and it is crucial to pinpoint these impacts in order to understand the ways in which this policy is oppressive. One way that this policy affects the incarcerated transgender person is the requirement that one person, a psychologist, decides the fate of the individual. I intend to show that putting the outcome of someone’s life in the hands of another person, who could undoubtedly be transphobic, is very risky, and ultimately discriminating.
As transgender individuals are one of the most stigmatized and oppressed groups it is crucial that as a society we ensure that the medical treatment received by transgender individuals is not lined with discrimination. Although, health care providers, being human, often carry the same bigoted viewpoints that the rest of society does. One story that made headlines was when a Catholic hospital refused breast implants to a transgender woman. (http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/new.php?n=11383). The surgical coordinator was quoted as saying, "it is against god’s will". This type of discrimination is faced daily by people not within the jail system; I can only imagine the type of oppression that is occurring within the jail walls.
Transgender individuals have to go through multiple levels of personal contact before receiving actual sex-reassignment surgery. If these transgender individuals are subject to one transphobic individual throughout the process, there is a distinct possibility that they will not be able to receive proper treatment. There are many debates over the ethical nature of the Harry Benjamin standard of care we previously discussed. "Some members of the transgender community are very critical . . . of the Standards of Care and take issue with the perceived need for someone other than themselves to decide whether they are eligible for sex reassignment (Bockting, 2004).
By picking through the many aspects of the Commissioner’s Directive 800 we have noted that there are many areas of the policy that need improvement, as this policy has a direct impact on the life of all incarcerated transgender individuals. The very fact that someone other than the transgender individual has control over the life choices of the individuals marks the policy as problematic. Due to the fact that we live in a world that discriminates against the transgender community we must ensure that the transgender community, as well as the incarcerated transgender community, can access proper health care without facing barriers at every step of the process.

BOCKTING, W. (., ROBINSON, B. (., BENNER, A. (., & SCHELTEMA, K. (. (2004). Patient satisfaction with transgender health services. Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy, 30(4), 277.

Friday, October 24, 2008

What Makes a Specialist?

In the Commissioner’s Directive 800 policy number 36 it states that a recognized gender identity specialist has to confirm that the offender has satisfied the real life test for a minimum of one year prior to incarceration. It also states that the recognized gender identity specialist then has to recommend surgery happen during incarceration. When looking at this our questions are what qualification do you need to be recognized as a gender identity specialist? And who decides within the prison system which specialist to use with transgendered inmates?

In order to get a favourable recommendation for SRS two different specialists have to agree. One of the specialists must possess a Masters Degree in a clinical behavioural science. The other must hold a doctoral degree (e.g., Ph.D., Ed.D., D.Sc., D.S.W., Psy.D., or M.D.). The specialists should also demonstrate competence in psychotherapy, sex theory and therapy. If you look closely at the requirements as to what defines a specialist, it uses the words should and competence, this leaves a lot of room for recommendations being made by health professionals who are not necessarily proficient in transgendered issues and who are not experts on SRS surgery. Also leaving people’s fate in the hands of someone who is competent and not an expert doesn’t not sound promising. A lot of room is also left for discrimination, since being aware and up to date on transgender matters is only a recommendation and not a requirement.

The potential for discrimination is even higher when we are talking about a transgendered inmate for three main reasons. First of all, the prison is most likely not going to use the same specialist that has been treating the person during their RLE. This means that whoever is making the recommendation will not have been through the transition with the individual and will not be able to truly judge their motivation or success. Second of all since the prison is the one hiring the specialist and it is not required that the specialists are experts in the field of SRS, they are more likely to hire who is available and who will compile with their value system instead of the specialist would have the best interest of the prisoner in mind. This could very easily lead to a transgender inmate being stuck with a transphobic doctor deciding their fate. Thirdly since again the specialist is being hired by the correctional system, they very well may be being paid for their unfavourable recommendation, since it is much cheaper for prisons to pay a “specialist” than to pay for the expenses related to surgery, i.e. transportation and medical attention during recovery.

Therefore the fate of transgendered inmates is placed in the hands of whomever the prison sees fit: qualified or not, bought or not, open minded or not.....

Monday, October 20, 2008

Discriminatory and Unfair Influence of Policy

As evidenced in the previous blog, the policies that are designed to protect the transgendered inmate are flawed, and this gravely influences and shapes the transgender inmate experience in the institution.

The policy we have chosen questions what it means to have equal access to emergency health care in Canada. More specifically, minorities receive poorer health care and as a result, have poorer health outcomes. This is certainly true for the transgender inmate as they are less likely to receive certain surgical procedures. The question is not do disparities in health care exist for the transgender inmate but the challenge is in developing and implementing certain strategies to eliminate them. This needs to happen from the bottom up, as it is evident in the prison system that these discriminatory policies could be said to encourage and maintain indifference.

The psychological state of the transgender individual is in constant turmoil. Often, the transgendered individual is at a point where they are trying to establish a personal sense of identity. This is extremely difficult to accomplish in an institutional setting because you’re working with a system that fails to recognize you as an individual. This is evident as transgender inmates are prohibited from receiving their surgery and from obtaining necessary hormones to maintain their transition. They may experience permanent side effects from being unable to transition such as anxiety and suicidal tendencies. Depression is the leading mental health concern among the transgendered population. For more information on how depression specifically affects the transgendered person, visit: http://www.firelily.com/gender/gianna/depression.html
As we can see, it appears that the very notion of transgender is a psychological and medication problem. As a result, health care providers initially pathologize the transgender condition and in doing so place their mental illness as a secondary concern.

When transgender inmate is living with individuals they do not identify with, this creates an uncomfortable and dangerous situation. These inmates are neither sympathetic, now sensitive to their situation and may not agree to how they have chosen to live their life. Experiences often include sexual assault, brutality, threats and harassments. This may not only be coming from fellow inmates, but staff working in the institution also.

Transgender Policy: Discriminatory and Unfair

The laws which are created with the intention of “protecting” the transgender inmate are discriminatory, biased and unfair. Policy makers have inadvertently created a system which results in the production, maintenance and preservation of the ill treatment of the transgender individual. Moreover, it does this to such a large extent that it questions the intentions of policy makers to create a fair system to begin with. It is my intention to critically examine this law, in order to identify the various inadequacies that support its framework.
What I found to be chief contradictions and areas of discrimination were within the institutions obligation to deliver suitable health care to the transgender inmate. This policy specifically claims that all inmates have the right to health care and that staff members have an obligation to bring attention those inmates who appear to be ill in any way. Furthermore, emergency health care is a priority. In reality, we generally see this as applying to acute problems only. The distress transgender inmate’s faces are long lasting and constant. Inmate health care is flawed and will not support the transition of the transgender inmate regardless of the severity of distress. Inmates are unable to receive sex reassignment surgery and they are only granted hormone treatments if they request it, and make arrangements for the hormone to be sent to the hospital via a third party.
In some cases, the transgendered individual has lengthy sentences and although an inmate’s health care is subject to these considerations we do not see the process of transitioning as being a top priority. As a result, the denial or cession of a progressing transition causes exceptionally harmful psychological states.

Moreover, the transgender inmate faces further barriers when it comes to living arrangements. They are required to be placed in the institution based on their biological genitalia. This is unfair as you cannot create a uniform policy because the transgendered individual can be at a range of places on the transitioning continuum. For example, if they have partly transitioned, they may still have their biological gender; however, may look, speak and resemble the opposite gender due to extensive hormone use. It is dangerous to place these individuals with fellow inmates with whom they do not identify or classify as there same gender. To comprehend the unique problems faced by a transgender individual when entering this environment, please read the story of Kalani Key, a women’s story of survival in a male prison.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

The Real Impacts of Real Life Experiece

The RLE is a discriminatory process but what is even more oppressing are the impacts it has on the lives of the people forced to endure it. One of the biggest impacts felt by transgendered people during this time frame is that employment can become difficult. Because the person is not legally the gender in which they are living lots of employers do not understand the situation and therefore won’t hire transgendered people during their RLE, or they fire them because of it.
Transitioning is already a very stressful time for a transgendered person, the RLE adds further debilitating stress by focusing the person’s mind on the test instead of on living their lives. If the “patient” does not prosper during their year in RLE it is not contributed to this stress but to the fact that they must not really be a transgendered person or that they don’t want the surgery bad enough. During the RLE the person must appear eager enough for surgery or it can be further delayed, this add an extreme amount of pressure to the individual going through such a huge change.
Something as simple as going to the toilet in public becomes a huge ordeal for a person in RLE. According to the test you must act fully in your desired gender, but having not had SRS causes obvious difficulties.
The RLE is also when transgendered people are the most vulnerable to discrimination, harassment and violence (http://www.genderadvocates.org/reports/supp98a.pdf). So for some passing the test becomes a matter of life and death.

The Real Life Experience

The real life experience (RLE) is a major part of the Standard of Care that transgendered inmates must pass in order to receive SRS while imprisoned. RLE is a process where transgendered people have to live in their preferred gender for a year in order to demonstrate that they can function in that gender role. The RLE is a discriminatory and oppressive imposition placed on transgendered people, instead of focusing on helping them cope with being who they are, the RLE is all about testing whether they can be who society wants them to be.
Social, legal and employment systems frequently support the false conceptualized pathway set up by the SOC, meaning that a person can’t legally change their names or gender without surgery. This makes it near impossible for transgendered people to have a successful social change of gender during the RLE. In essence they must live in the gender they identify with but are not given any of the rights associated with this.
The most discriminatory part of the RLE is that permission is needed to have a medical surgery by a therapist. The question should not be whether the individual has successfully completed the RLE but whether he or she is able to give informed consent for the surgery. Like in most surgeries if the patient is well informed and has a surgeon who is willing to perform the surgery, it should be allowed, especially since SRS’ are usually paid for by the individual.
Though it is definitely not the same, an example to illustrate my point is doctors don’t go around telling women who want breast enlargements that they must walk around wearing padded bras for a year before they are allowed surgery. Transgendered people do not want surgery for aesthetic reasons, they want to be able properly live as the gender they identify with, and shouldn’t have to jump through society imposed hoops to do so.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Policy Impacting the Individual

It is easy to graze the surface, in a theoretical manner, about how Commissioner’s Directive 800 number 36 is discriminatory to transgendered individuals, but to really understand the effects of these policies it is necessary to grasp the impacts on the individual. As I have previously shown, transphobia, immigration status and language are all barriers to the healthcare system for transgendered individuals. I will go on to exemplify the specific impacts that these roadblocks have on the individuals in the transgender community, and portray the way in which we limit healthcare in an systematic manner.
Transphobic doctors have been known to refuse treatment to transgendered individuals. This refusal often leaves transgendered people with very few options if they would like to start on their road to sex reassignment. This lack of accessible healthcare may lead some transgendered folks to seek access to hormones on the street. The danger in terms of dosage and access to clean needles is tremendous. This phenomenon, of refusal of health care, is putting an entire community at risk.
Another way that transphobia is manifested in doctors is when they use their position of power to diagnose the transgendered individual as "ill" and try to "treat" the person. Not only is this unethical, but also, labeling this person as "ill" can make the transgendered person feel that there is something wrong with their feelings. This can in turn make the transgendered person focus on their "illness" rather than on their sex reassignment plans. Oftentimes non-Canadian transgendered people flee to Canada in search of a liberal society that will assist them on their sex reassignment journey. With no status, and often little money, our oppressive society often leaves these transgendered individuals with little way to make money outside of the sex work industry. Not only are these surgeries very costly, but also if this person were emigrating from non-English speaking country, expensive translators would be necessary.
Here we have been able to personalize the myriad ways in which Commissioners directive 800 number 36 directly impacts the lives of the people in the transgender community. Society systematically limits access to healthcare, and then writes and imposes these policies as if they are somehow attainable to the folks they purport to serve. The policy investigated would be blameless if we were serving a population of all upper class white Canadian men. Although, as shown this is not the case. Canadian society limits access to healthcare to certain marginalized groups, and as a result we can not apply policy to heterogeneous populations as if they were not so.
For information on transgender health needs please visit-

Inherant Discrimination Within Policy

The Commissioner’s Directive 800 policy number 36, a policy which speaks to the rights of transgender individuals in the Canadian jail system, is inherently discriminatory. The wording of this particular policy assumes a level playing field within our society, although the field, in actuality, is quite bumpy. The Policy uses words like "gender identity specialist", as if this type of specialist is readily accessible to the transgender community. I will show how transphobia, immigration status and language are all aspects of that bumpy playing field that result in the unavailability of healthcare. This lack of access to healthcare provides the necessary evidence in order to render this policy 36 discriminatory.
Transphobia is a major barrier in terms of accessing healthcare for the transgender individual. Often there are encounters with transphobic doctors who will refuse treatment outright to the transgender individual. Another way transphobia is manifested within the medical field is when doctors try to "cure" the transgendered person. Transgendered people are sometimes viewed as "ill" by transphobic doctors and then the doctor attempts to treat the "illness", rather than initiate steps towards sexual reassignment.
Immigration status is also a major problem when trying to access healthcare. Even if the transgendered individual were lucky enough to see a doctor who was willing to provide treatment, the lack of a healthcard would make the cost of these treatments and procedures tremendous. Furthermore, if this individual were emigrating from a non-English speaking country, there would be further costs endured in order to hire a translator to convey their needs to the doctor.
This policy requires an individual to gain access to the Canadian Healthcare system. But, as you can see this access is often very restricted for the transgendered individual. It is obvious that the nature of this policy is discriminating to transgendered individuals; the very individuals that it should seek to protect. The life test is the next term that is imposed on the transgender individual. Imposed by the same oppressive policy writers that create these discriminatory barriers to healthcare.
For more on systemic discrimination please visit- http://www.queensu.ca/humanrights/tap/3discrimination.htm

Friday, October 10, 2008

Impact of Gaps and Assumptions in SRS Policy for Transgender Inmates

The overall impact of Correction Services Canada SRS policy is that many transgendered inmates who are in desperation for the surgery do not receive it. The difficulties and restrictions in accessing SRS behind prison walls also render the transgendered inmate powerless. They are controlled under an institution that has policies with loopholes so many of those who want the surgery fall through the cracks.
There are huge implications for pre-operative transgendered individuals who are waiting for the surgery, or do not qualify (likely because they are blocked by at least one of the existing barriers in the policy) in that they are obliged to settle with hormone therapy for the time being. This is problematic because despite their transition to being feminine or masculine, they are held in male and female institutions respectively. For example, a male to female transgendered inmate may be stuck in limbo before surgery in a male prison where they are commonly abused, assaulted, harassed and/or exploited.
It is crucial to also interpret where the underlying tones in the policy come from. There are societal ideologies around heterosexuality and gender. Being heterosexual is viewed as the norm and anything that drifts from this is deemed as deviant. In our society, a person’s external appearance is assumed to match their gender identity. Because the transgendered community does not fit into either category, they are stigmatized and pushed margins of society where they are at a disadvantage. In a book called, “Transgender Rights” the authors state the following, “at the core of the law’s power over trans women and men is its ability to pronounce individuals legally female or male regardless of their gender identity or expression”, they also go on to say that there is paradigm enforced, especially by the courts, where “trans women and men have no place” (Currah P, Juang R.M., Minter S, pg 46, from http://books.google.ca/books?id=FUwOKayHVwcC ) . The policy reflects the general non-acceptance for transgendered people in society. Furthermore, since institutions like prisons hold so much power, they are responsible for reproducing incorrect assumptions and do not recognize transgender inmates as full and equal participants in society (http://www.ccsd.ca/subsites/inclusion/bp/as.htm).
The overall impact of the combination of prison policy restrictions and ideologies sends a message across the board – that transgendered people are not the norm. Themes regarding social responses and belief about transgendered inmates are based on exclusion. They are excluded from personal and physical security and from non-discriminatory prison policy, where they are further excluded from adequate health care services.
For further information, please see: Transgender Rights by Paisley Currah, Richard M. Juang, Shannon Minter, Published by U of Minnesota Press, 2006 ISBN 0816643121, 9780816643127 368 pages or visit http://www.upress.umn.edu/Books/C/currah_transgender.html or http://bookd.google.ca/book?id=FUwOKayHVscC
Please also visit: http://www.xpressions.org/

A Critical Analysis of Sex Reassignment Surgery (SRS) Policy for Transgender Inmates

Merely having policies in prisons that address transgendered people in general is not satisfactory. Anti-oppressive theoretical framework suggests that social relationships manifest in ways that give dominant groups power through systematically reducing, controlling, manipulating or immobilizing subordinate groups (http://aosw.socialwork.dal.ca/theory.html). The current Sex Reassignment Surgery policy in correctional facilities can be dismantled to evaluate institutional injustices against transgendered inmates in this context.
Current Correction Services Canada policy is based on the premise that changing a person’s sex IS APPROPRIATE AND NECESSARY when recommended by a gender identity specialist to ATTEND TO the NEEDS of a transgendered individual. CSC acknowledges the need for SRS – they made a policy that adheres specifically to it, yet the policy is set up so there is LIMITED ACCESS to the means. Denying or making access difficult for subordinate groups is a form of systemic oppression.
The policies are layered in a way that one policy impacts another. They overlap so the transgendered inmate moves through the legislation facing constant roadblocks. Let’s critically examine how the policies around gender identity disorder are interwoven:
1) Subsection 33 (initiate or continue hormones), Subsection 34 (pre-operative placement), Subsection 35 (placement/ program decisions accommodate needs including safety and privacy) and Subsection 36 (SRS) are all limited to subsection 32 (label and continuity of healthcare).
Further, within the above:
2) Subsection 36 is limited in itself because a)need real life test that is not available behind bars, b) it’s ‘considered’, and c) it MAY then be ‘recommended’.
3) Subsection 34 (pre-operative placement) and Subsection 35 (placement/program decisions accommodate needs including safety and privacy) are limited to the occurrence of subsection 36 (SRS), which may not occur because subsection 36 (SRS) is limited to itself and #1.
And finally,
4) Being placed in a facility that adheres to the gender in which a transgendered inmate associates with (which would be the opposite of subsection 34, or post-operative placement) is contingent upon subsection 36 (SRS) – which may not occur based on all the above mentioned limitations. http://www.csc-scc.gc.ca/text/plcy/cdshtm/800-cde-eng.shtml#_gender
The legislation makes SRS nearly unattainable, and consequently makes proper placement unattainable. This process is a cycle of exclusion and confusion for the transgendered inmate. It is accomplished through control and a process that makes the transgendered inmate immobile; thus it is discriminatory.
For more information, please visit http://www.nsrap.ca/

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

How policy affects the lives of transgendered individuals

Organizations try to protect transgender individuals by creating non-discrimination laws and policy which state that no one should not be treated unfairly or harassed because they are transgender. Most organizations have anti-discrimination policy; however only few specifically include transgender individuals. When they are included, policies follow a similar composition:You are considered transgender if:o You want to live as a member of your preferred gendero You are in the process of changing over to your preferred gendero You live as a member of your preferred gendero You have lived as a member of your preferred gender in the past oro You are intersexual and live as a member of your preferred gendero You do not need to be taking hormones, nor be planning or have had sex reassignment surgery.Anti-discrimination policy applies to all social locations at all times; however, the onus is on the victim to make a complaint and report it to the authorities. If their complaint is valid, legal authorities will investigate your compliant. A private settlement will try to be reached and if that is not possible, your case will go to tribunal court. On paper, this looks like an objective policy that could protect and shelter transgender individuals from prejudice, discrimination and inequity. However, when we de-construct such policy we see various discrepancies begin to emerge.Terminology such as, “preferred gender” and “valid complaint” are ambiguous and can be interpreted in many different ways. Furthermore, the onus is on the victim to make the complaint, which further accentuates the vulnerability of the transgender individual and draws attention to the superiority and dominance of law enforcement officers. Furthermore, settling the dispute through a private settlement highlights the taboo nature of the transgender experience.When we consider anti-discrimination policy within institutions like jails and prisons, the transgendered inmate is faced with further barriers towards equality. Although specific institutions may have policies in place to protect the well being of the transgender individual, many staff do not follow the ideology that the policy sets out. Staff may not approve of how the transgender individual has chosen to live their life and because they are in a powerful position, they very well may support and be part of the ill treatment of the powerless transgender inmate. For example, instances have occurred where staff have been reported physically, sexually, verbally and emotionally abusing transgender inmates. All too often, transgender inmates have to remain silent if only to keep on good behavior to hopefully be granted early parole.It’s evident that the very policies and procedures being created to help the transgender population are far from perfect, filled with oppressive undertones and are not always adhered to or applied equally.For more information on transgender law and policies, including anti-discrimination laws please visit: http://www.transgenderlaw.org/resources/index.htm

Systems and Responsibilities: No Universal Policy for Transgendered Inmates

Since there is no universal policy with respect to transgendered people in prisons and they are handled on a case by case basis there is a lot of room for poor treatment and inadequate services for them while incarcerated. Discrimination against transgendered inmates occurs at the federal level and trickles down into the institutional framework. In both cases, transgendered inmates do not have access to the same resources as the mainstream prison population, and this is certainly problematic in terms of their human rights.
Take, for example at the federal level, the idea that Corrections Canada has recognized the need for suitable, gender specific interventions. Policies were changed to address the particular needs of women, and the Prison for Women (P4W) was closed down because it was criticized heavily for its lack of suitable programs. Incarcerated women currently receive programming directly intended for women in conflict with the law (http://www.csc-scc.gc.ca/text/releases/00-07-06_e.shtml); likewise, male programming targets male offenders. The way in which transgendered offenders are placed however, means that programming is limited to the institution they are placed in, which, by nature does not address the needs of the gender they associate themselves with and contradicts Corrections Canada’s intention to provide specified services. It is important to note that the change in policies for female offenders holds both the institution and the staff members responsible for meeting the criteria as set out in the policies.
No universal policy also means that, at the institutional level, prison staff members are not held accountable for any injustices towards transgendered people. Front-line prison employees are responsible for the detailed transmission of information about daily occurrences in the facility, often referred to as ‘shift change’. In this framework, when passing on information about an inmate who is transgendered, pertinent information may not be passed on because it may not seem important. This practice may also become a breeding ground for inappropriate dialogue regarding the transgendered individual. Further, given that correctional facilities exist in both the private and public realms, treatment towards transgendered inmates may differ from facility to facility, or even from shift to shift. Inconsistencies in attitudes and beliefs manifest and negatively impact the environment as a whole. In these instances, the transgendered individual may be treated fairly during the day shift, and poorly during the afternoon shift sending conflicting and often traumatizing messages not only to the inmate, but to other inmates and other employees.
When considering the existing policies around SRS, operating on a case by case basis means that anyone who wants the surgery has to be held under a microscope. Relaying of information in this sense may come in the form of logging daily routines, behaviours and activities between front-line staff, prison officials and the gender identity specialist. Therefore, any decisions with respect to SRS may be hindered by factors that the transgendered inmate has no control over.

The Policy

Though there have been advancements in policies for incarcerated transgendered inmates, we believe that their human rights continue to be violated. The policy we have chosen to examine is the current 2008 policy for transgendered inmates looking to have SRS (http://www.cscscc.gc.ca/text/plcy/cdshtm/800-cde-eng.shtml). The Commissioner’s Directives 800-36 a. states that SRS will only be granted to a prisoner if a recognized specialist has stated that they have passed the real life test, as described in the Harry Benjamin Standards of Care, for a least a year before imprisonment.
The Harry Benjamin Standards of Care (http://wpath.org/Documents2/socv6.pdf) are clinical guidelines intended to provide directions for people with gender dysphoria. The guideline mentioned in the policy is that of the real life experience. When a specialist assess whether an offender has passed the real life test they review the person’s abilities in the new gender role in 6 areas:
To maintain employment
To function as a student
To function in community based volunteer activity
To undertake a combination of 1-3
To acquire a new legal name
To provide proof that other people besides the therapist know that the inmate functions in the new gender role
If and only if the patient demonstrates stability in these 6 areas can surgery be recommended by the specialist. There is an ongoing debate outside prison walls as to whether the SOC is a fair assessment. One of the main arguments against seems to be the undefined and ambiguous interpretation of what stability means. This becomes highlighted even more when a transgendered person is incarcerated because that can be seen as instability in the eyes of society, but is not necessarily relevant to the person’s gender transitioning. The policy also mentions that the prisoner has to have been living up to SOC standards as the new gender for at least a year before incarceration. Meaning anyone who is at an earlier stage of their transition is not going to be eligible for SRS at anytime while imprisoned.
Part b of The Commissioner’s Directives 800-36, states that not only does the prisoner have to pass the real life test and be living by SOC standards for a year, but the recognized gender identity specialist (chosen by the institution) must recommend that the surgery be allowed during incarceration. So even after satisfying the SOC, the specialist can still deny the prisoner their right to SRS for whatever reason they see fit.
Though it is defiantly an improvement to have a standard policy for transgendered inmates and SRS, 800-36 is too vague and open to interpretation by prison officials, leaving plenty of room for the continual oppression of transgendered prisoners.

The Evolution of Prison Policy

The introduction of Canadian policy regarding the medical treatment of transgendered individuals occurred in 1982. I will illustrate the progress, although fairly minimal, that Canada has made since that 1982 implementation. In 1982 Correctional Service of Canada implemented a policy that stated that each inmate would be treated on an individual basis. No treatments were initiated while incarcerated. Continued hormone treatment would be provided if it "appeared" that the inmate would pursue SRS upon their release. Lastly, the policy DID NOT allow for any sex reassignment surgeries. This 1982 policy was fairly restrictive; although the policy allowing for occasional acceptance of hormone treatment was a step in the right direction.
In 1987 there was another revision of policy. This new policy remained firm on the position of no sexual reassignment surgeries. The alteration within the policy stipulated that inmates were allowed to be administered hormones, but the hormone treatments will cease nine months prior to release. This policy marked an increased oppression among transgendered individuals in the prison system.
Again this policy was altered, in 1993, to allow for hormone treatments throughout the entirety of incarceration. An interesting alteration of the policy was the new allowance for "sexual reconstructive surgery", although there was still no authorization for sexual reassignment surgery. Finally in 1995 sexual reassignment surgeries were permitted to take place, although, only with the explicit permission of the Regional Deputy Commissioner as well as the Commissioner of CSC. 1997 marked a negative shift in this policy, when the policy stated that there would be no consideration for sex reassigment surgery during the time of incarceration. http://www.chrt-tcdp.gc.ca/search/view_html.asp?doid=264&lg=_e&isruling=0
The current policy regarding sexual reassignment surgery among Canadian transgendered inmates states that there will be some allowances for the surgery. Although this is a progressive move towards decreasing oppression among transgendered inmates, there is still substantial work to be done in improving these life-altering policies. Restrictions regarding real life tests, and there required completion before incarceration, limits access to sexual reassignment surgery. For many inmates, due to these restrictions, SRS will never be approved; these policies are ultimately discriminating towards these members of the incarcerated transgendered community.