Transgender Mistreatment in US Detention Facilities

by Vins
Published: Updated:

There have been 186 complaints filed by transgendered inmates in federal immigration detention facilities since 2008. Seventy of those state that the inmate was sexually abused and thirty-four reported being segregated for periods of time. Other complaints include alleged harassment and abuse. Less than 10% of these cases have been investigated or have ended with closure.

Female transgendered inmates are routinely housed in male facilities. These inmates are segregated because of their gender identity.  Because transgendered detainees are at risk of abuse and emotional distress, they are often held in solitary confinement for their own safety—sometimes for as long as 14 months. In August 2013, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture said that the use of solitary confinement in US prisons can constitute torture.

Several transgendered detainees who reported experiencing abuse said that informing officials of the harassment caused them further harm or instigated segregation. They live in fear because reporting abuses can lead to further humiliation. One detainee recounted a time when she asked a guard for a cup of water and she was handed a cup of semen instead. She said she was threatened with isolation and deportation if she did not drink its contents.

In 2012, following a request by members of Congress, the US Government Accountability Office announced that it would investigate sexual abuse at these facilities. The GAO report is expected in November 2013.

Source:  Amy Lieberman, “Complaints by Transgender Detainees Quantify Abuse”, womensenews, September 3, 2013,

Student Researchers: Victoria Arrington, Jasmine Aguilera, Wyatt Vaughn, Emily Koehn, Roman Jennings, Jordan Hinton, Paulo Silva (Santa Rosa Junior College)

Faculty Evaluator: Susan Rahman (Santa Rosa Junior College)