In “Orange is the New Black”, Laverne Cox plays the part of Sophia, a transgender inmate at a women’s prison. In the prison, Sophia acts as a confidant and hairdresser to the women in the prison. More importantly, Cox’s role shows the problems that transgender women face in prison. Well now, the country’s second largest jail will open a housing unit specifically for transgender women.
The special housing unit is scheduled to open this week at the Rikers Island jail facility and is designed to protect transgender inmates from violence, rape, and harassment. The unit will have an initial capacity of 30 beds, which is said to be sufficient for the number of transgender women at Rikers at any given time. It is a voluntary unit so a transgender inmate can choose whether she wants to be in the unit.
Currently, transgender women are housed with men where they face harassment from other inmates and staff. The only escape is to go into protective custody, which is basically solitary confinement for 23 hours a day.
The unit was developed with advice from several advocacy groups and will provide more livable conditions for transgender inmates.