News prison

Published on July 10th, 2012 | by Wild Gender

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Patti Shaw Files Suit Against D.C. for Mistreatment After Arrest

WASHINGTON D.C. — Patti Hammond Shaw is suing the Washington D.C. Metropolitan Police Department and the U.S. Marshals service in a show of opposition to widespread criminal justice practices that house trans and other gender variant inmates in facilities contrary to their gender identity and presentation.

Ms. Shaw turned herself into a D.C. police station June 18, 2009, after she received a letter saying there was a warrant for her arrest on charges of making a false police report, the Washington Blade reports. Shaw was placed in a men’s facility, despite producing documents supporting her right to be housed with other women.

“Ok, so do we have this straight?” writes Queen Emily on a blog called ‘Questioning Transphobia’. “A black trans woman makes a report that she’d lost her purse, and finds it.  Then she claims to have been robbed that same night and makes a different report.  The detectives are rude to her.  Then a couple days later, a detective decides to arrest her for making a false report, and then things get predictably ugly at the police station.”

Patti Shaw, transgender, Patti Hammond Shaw, law suit, prison

Patti Shaw

As the story continues, Shaw was then remanded to the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service, where officers “groped her breasts, buttocks and between her legs repeatedly and excessively,” according to her suit.

She was also placed in a holding cell with about 30 cisgender men and was reportedly verbally harassed, touched inappropriately, and forced to urinate in a cup publicly.

“So I think there’s two parts to this story.  The first is the sheer fact of her arrest.  When the detective says that he didn’t believe her story, how is “believability” being figured in relation to her race and transness?” Queen Emily continues.  “To be robbed the same day after making a pointless report is certainly a bit unlikely, to be sure, but not out of the realm of possibility.  Would a white cis woman be likely to be arrested with the same chain of events?  Somehow I doubt it.”

The suit also states that law enforcement authorities failed to adhere to their own policies for handling trans detainees. According to the Washington Blade, the D.C. police adopted a policy in 2007 mandating that transgender detainees be placed in a holding cell by themselves, and authorities are also required to remain cognizant of a detainee’s gender identity.

While the defendants (District of Columbia) are calling for a dismissal of the complaint with prejudice (meaning it can not be brought up again in court) no court has yet acted on her most recent suit (filed this April after being dismissed without prejudice in 2011).

On June 26, the District of Columbia submitted a memorandum in support of a motion to dismiss Shaw’s complaint saying that she failed to state a claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress, i.e. she didn’t show an “extreme and outrageous conduct on part of the defendants.”

For resources connecting with incarcerated queer, trans and gender-variant individuals, visit Black & Pink, a queer pro-prison abolition site. Black & Pink has an updated resource list of incarcerated queers in need of pen-pals.

Often in prison facilities, a “mail call” is held wherein officers and staff read aloud the names of those receiving mail. To receive mail as an incarcerated queer often is an indicator that a person is visible, valuable and important to folks on the outside. This kind of invaluable visibility can sometimes provide a defense against harassment and mistreatment from officers and staff as well as a important show of solidarity.

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About the Author

Wild Gender

is an online magazine and creative hub born out of gratitude for the gift of full expression. We are dedicated to creative practices that celebrate gender fluidity, identity and expression. Wild Gender prioritizes visual art, creative writing, and journalistic work by trans/gender-variant individuals who have never before been published in a public venue. Run entirely by volunteers,we are always in search of writers, thinkers, and creators hoping to participate in our growing community.



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