Sonia Doe: The Trans Woman Improving New Jersey Prisons


An unnamed prisoner, Sonia Doe, recently won a settlement with the ACLU and the State of New Jersey. Her goal: safety and protection for other trans prisoners while incarceration continues in America.

“Sonia Doe” is a trans woman imprisoned in a New Jersey penitentiary. This week, she received $125,000 in damages and attorneys fees.

“When I was forced to live in men’s prisons, I was terrified I wouldn’t make it out alive,” Doe said in a statement. “Those memories still haunt me.”

Doe reported sexual violence, including harassment and assault. At one point, Doe stated that she was in solitary confinement as a punishment for her advocacy. This is a common occurrence in our current system, especially among privately-owned maximum and supermax prisons.

Today, solitary confinement causes hunger strikes, increases the chances of going to prison again, and more. 

What conservatives are saying.

This decision solidifies LGBT housing based on gender identity. Unfortunately, there is already some heavy opposition to this change. Brandon Showalter of the Christian Post wrote about “biological males” entering women’s facilities.

(He also writes “misgendered” in quotes, quoting the actual statement and air quoting the idea of misgendering. Today, I will not feed into this fearmongering. Though it is worth saying that straight, cis-het people do experience misgendering.)

The Bottom Line.

This isn’t to say that there aren’t challenges to respecting gender and sexuality in the United States. And it certainly isn’t an attempt at promoting imprisonment to rehabilitate.

However, New Jersey says that they will house people according to gender identity because protecting people like Sonia Doe is critical. This according to a spokesman speaking with NBC News.

“Anyone incarcerated under NJDOC care may at any time provide information regarding their gender identity to the NJDOC,” the spokesman wrote. “Overall, the steps being taken support the important cultural changes being made throughout the Department.”



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