Transgender inmate files federal lawsuit
by Timothy Cwiek
Aug 29, 2013 | 2015 views | 1 1 comments | 80 80 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Gene L. Dickerson, a transgender state inmate, has filed a lawsuit in federal court, citing unsafe living conditions relating to her transgender status.

Dickerson, 39, is incarcerated at the state prison in Dallas, Pa.

She alleges harassment and discrimination by state Department of Correction officials because she’s transgender.

She also alleges that DOC officials failed to properly screen her cellmates for transphobia, thus exposing her to dangerous situations.

She’s had five different cellmates in a brief period of time, all of whom have either assaulted her, sexually harassed her or threatened bodily harm, according to the lawsuit.

One cellmate allegedly said, “I’m in the cell with a faggot,” and tried to commit suicide.

“I was still forced to live with this inmate an additional three days,” Dickerson stated.

A Muslim cellmate indicated he disapproved of her gender identity and allegedly told staff, “If you don’t move me I’m gonna fuck this dude up,” according to Dickerson.

One DOC official threatened to disclose Dickerson’s private medical information throughout the prison if she continued to file complaints, according to the lawsuit.

DOC officials also threatened to perform an invasive “cavity search” on Dickerson, and administer an unnecessary enema, if she didn’t stop filing grievances, according to the lawsuit.

Dickerson requested to be housed in a cell with her cousin, Deon C. Stafford, 44, who is also an inmate at the prison.

“All I have is my cousin, to make sure no one bothers me due to my [transgender status],” Dickerson stated.

But DOC officials denied her request without giving a reasonable explanation, according to the lawsuit.

Instead, DOC staffers have “intentionally and maliciously placed me in dangerous situations,” said Dickerson.

The inmate is seeking a temporary restraining order, to stop harassment and intimidation by DOC staffers.

She’s also seeking an unspecified amount in compensatory and punitive damages.

Dickerson has a background of petty crime, and is currently incarcerated due to a parole violation.

She’ll be eligible for parole in April 2015, according to DOC records.

She filed the lawsuit pro se in the Middle District of Pennsylvania last month, naming several DOC officials as defendants.

The case has been referred to U.S. Magistrate Judge Martin C. Carlson.

Susan McNaughton, a DOC spokesperson, declined to comment about the lawsuit.

She also had no comment on whether the DOC screens inmates for transphobia prior to placing them in a cell with transgender inmates.

Additionally, McNaughton had no comment about the possibility of transgender inmates to be housed in single cells for safety purposes.

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August 29, 2013
...and the Pennsylvania Department Of Corrections does it again in terms of cruelty towards transgender inmates. When will society learn that even if a transgender person needs to be locked away from society, they should be placed in the proper gender setting. This means under no circumstance should a transgender woman ever be placed in a men's prison, no matter what they or their genitals look like.

May I also advise the DOC that they are at risk of losing a percentage of federal funding, due to the Prison Rape Elimination Act's Final Rule of 2012. It became immediately binding on federal prisons, however, states have one year to certify compliance and that deadline has already passed.

Some of the provisions (as they related to the transgender community) that all prisons must follow under pain of loss of federal funding:

-No cross-gender patdowns of female inmates absent exigent circumstances.

-No placement in dedicated LGBT wings without consent from the inmate.

-No examining an inmate solely to determine genital status.

-Must allow transgender inmates to shower separately from other inmates, no matter what.


The Office of Supportive Housing, which administers public homeless shelters in Philadelphia, has a policy of placing clients based on their gender identity rather than mere genitalia or chromosomal sex. Why can't we do this with the Pennsylvania Department Of Corrections, or even the Philadelphia Prison System, which, despite the fact that we live in a city/county where we have multiple protections, still assigns based on genital status.

Of course, the Office of Supportive Housing does not always follow its own rules, and PA DOC might not, even if their placement policy mirrors that of the Philadelphia OSH. Administrative discretion tends to equal administrative violence and the PA DOC needs to go beyond compliance in order to ensure the safety of all inmates, especially female inmates (and needless to say, this includes females of transgender experience).

Fyodor Dostoyevsky once said "The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering the prisons". A part of this is how we treat our transgender inmates, which pose unique challenges.

Seriously, how to move forward?