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.