Civil Rights

Trans Prisoner Letter Writing

TPI advocates for trans and gender diverse persons in the prison system, focusing on Texas prisons. We see on average over 150 letters received and sent each month. This work is crucial to helping trans persons remain safe in the prison system.
Aug 01, 2017
3 Hours
4 Needed
Volunteers Who Stepped Up
  • Daisy Espinoza
  • Fernanda Fernandez
  • Grant McSwain
  • Jordan Alvarez
  • Karmen Pettit-Tennyson
  • Max Lucky
  • jessica lyons
  • ruben sixtos

More Details

The prison and "justice" system is our society's most oppressive and violent means of reinforcing gender stereotypes and traditional gender roles. Trans Pride Initiative believes that we will never achieve equitable treatment for trans and gender diverse persons until we address respect for gender expression and identity everywhere, including the justice system. And if the justice system is not addressed as part of our basic work to hold society accountable for its anti-trans violence, we establish hierarchies of more deserving and less deserving individuals, the antithesis of legitimate civil rights work.

TPI supports incarcerated trans persons in three primary ways.
  1. First, we offer basic outside communication. Incarcerated persons who have little or no outside contacts are at much greater risk of violence in the system. Just getting regular letters from an advocacy organization can help keep people safer.
  2. Second, we advocate for trans persons' rights: no judge sentences anyone to the harassment, abusive treatment, denial of healthcare, and physical and sexual assaults that trans and gender diverse persons experience in the justice system. Outside organizations can can help address this, but most "civil rights" organizations only address civil rights if it is an "impact" case that will impress their donors. We work with everyone who asks.
  3. And last, we serve to build community. When TPI first started advocating for incarcerated trans persons, there were fewer than 30 out in the Texas prison system; at the beginning of 2017, there were approximately 400 out. Advocacy and support has encouraged persons to come out, to hold the system accountable to their abuses, and to work together to share information and tactics across the system. We believe there are over 1,000 trans persons in Texas state prisons, so we have seen significant progress in helping our community stand up and demand accountability by the state.
Overall approach is that as a society, our approach to addressing social harm needs to shift from a retributive (or punishment) perspective to one of restorative/transformative perspective that actually gives people the skills and tools to be successful participants in society rather than making it next to impossible to succeed.

We are looking for persons who can come in regularly a couple times a month to help write letters. It takes time to learn how to be effective in this work. We appreciate those who come in to contribute once or twice -- and we have some efforts like writing holiday and birthday cards that are good for efforts like that -- but the real value is in learning how to be an effective advocate through experience. Won't you join us and help?

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