Why Is a Trans Teen Being Sent to Prison If She Hasn't Been Convicted of a Crime?

She was too difficult for the Department of Children and Family to manage, so the 16-year-old is headed for prison.

(Photo: Getty Images)

Apr 11, 2014· 1 MIN READ
Kristina Bravo is Assistant Editor at TakePart.

A 16-year-old transgender girl was transferred from a juvenile facility to an adult prison on Tuesday after a violent outburst in January—despite never having been convicted of a crime.

The unnamed Connecticut teen has been in state custody, under the Department of Children and Family, since age five and has been receiving hormone treatments to transition.

Authorities at the facility where she lived, a live-in treatment home for traumatized youth, say the girl blinded and broke the jaw of a staffer during an outburst. Police reported that the victim suffered “apparent minor injuries” and arrested the teen. A source told The Hartford Courant that the employee’s sight has returned.

Though no criminal charge has been brought against the teen, she’s now under a 72-hour assessment at the York Correctional Institute for women in Niantic, Conn., with the possibility of being transferred to the Manson Correctional Institute, which houses males up to age 20. The prison is expected to decide her final arrangement on Friday.

Earlier this week, the youth’s defense attorney filed a preliminary injunction to prevent the transfer or her placement in isolation at the women’s prison. The office of the public defender appointed Aaron Romano to represent the teen in a post-conviction action.

“Under the Prison Rape Elimination Act, the individual has to be assessed taking into consideration multiple factors—some of them being gender identity, sexual orientation—in order to determine the safest place for the individual,” Romano said. “The Department of Corrections in Connecticut essentially told me, ‘Whatever is below the person’s waist, that’s where the person is going to be placed.’ That really doesn’t comport with PREA.”

Congress unanimously passed the law in 2003 to prevent rape in federal, state, and local institutions, requiring the Bureau of Justice Statistics to review sexual assault incidences. In 2013, the agency's National Survey of Youth in Custody found that 9.5 percent of those in juvenile confinement reported being sexually victimized. In state prisons, 6,660 allegations of sexual victimization were reported in 2011, and it's believed many—if not the majority—go unreported.

DCF Commissioner Joette Katz went before the Connecticut legislature on Feb. 14 to request $2.5 million in funding for a new female residential treatment, using the teen as an example of who could benefit from it and mentioning the January incident.

“So the facility is up and running. Rather than referring Jane Doe to the facility, she instead chose to put her in jail,” Romano said. The DCF requested to relinquish custody of the teen on Feb. 4, arguing that there’s no suitable treatment for her at the agency. The judge consented under a little-used statute that allows such a move, ordering the teen’s transfer to prison on April 8.

If the facility chooses to move the teen to a male facility or an isolation unit at the female prison, Romano's legal team is set to challenge the decision in court.