The Washington Examiner has been reporting on the fate of a transgender prisoner who has been languishing in solitary confinement in a Virginia jail because, according to officials, they didn’t know what else to do with her. The latest news is that she has been moved to the jail’s hospital while awaiting transfer to a federal prison that is said to provide “transgender treatment and counseling.”
Officials at Central Virginia Regional Jail said they had initially placed Maria Benita Santamaria in solitary confinement because they feared she would be raped by male inmates. Her attorney, Cathy Alterman, said they moved the 35-year-old to the medical wing late Wednesday night after U.S. District Court Judge T.S. Ellis ordered them to do so….
Alterman said Santamaria was born a male, but lives life as a woman and has a feminine appearance. She has been undergoing hormone treatment in preparation for a sex change operation for the past two years. Since she’s been in prison, however, Alterman says Santamaria has not received the hormones and has started to grow facial hair.
During her stay in solitary confinement, Santamaria was treated no different than inmates on punitive lockdown, Deputy Superintendent Susan Fletcher said. She was allowed out of her cell for one hour a day and allowed to shower every three days.
Alterman said jail guards referred to Santamaria as “it” and the conditions have pushed her to consider suicide. Despite the threat of being raped by male inmates, Santamaria has repeatedly asked to be placed in general population.
This is hardly a unique case. Unless they have had sex-reassignment surgery, male-to-female transgender individuals are considered male, and placed in men’s jails and prisons, where they inevitably become victims of rape. But the only alternative available at most prisons is “administrative segregation,” which is supposed to be reserved for punishment. So transgender prisoners end up getting sent to the hole simply for being who they are.