The “Trans Prisoners: The Prison Industrial Complex (PIC), Survival, and Solidarity” workshop was held on Oct 22. This workshop gave individuals the opportunity to learn about an issue made popular by shows such as Orange is the New Black and the continued efforts of groups such as the Transgender Gender Variant Intersex Justice Project (TGI Justice): the lives of LGBTQ prisoners and the PIC.
The workshop, which took place from 6 to 10 p.m., was sponsored by the group Black and Pink, an organization dedicated to improving the lives of LGBTQ individuals concerning living conditions while in prison, rights as human beings, and other acts of injustice. One of the mediums in which Black and Pink works to achieve this goal is through educating others.
“It was such an eye opening experience to be able to go in depth about an issue that I’ve heard about from the news and friends of mine that are transgender,” first year Alex Schelle said, who attended the workshop. “You hear about all of these different, strong people who have gone through so much and you can’t help but feel mad at the fact that there is a system in place that disadvantages them.”
The workshop followed an interactive model based on audience involvement through group activities and discussion. The workshop opened with attendees introducing themselves, their pronouns, what their particular motivation was for attending the workshop and a point of previous knowledge they had pertaining to issues in the prison industrial complex.
A discussion was then lead in which audience members got to brainstorm ideas about aspects of the prison industrial complex that are not always apparent when discussing the ethics of the living conditions for prisoners. The workshop touched on subjects from prison labor to homophobia, and how such factors intersect with one another.
The workshop focused on creating a narrative of diverse voices from LGTBQ individuals by showing a video that detailed the experiences of transgender women. This created a narrative that told not only the stories of individuals while in prison, but also the factors that influence the ways in which trans women are perceived, and the ways in which negative attitudes towards LGBTQ individuals can created dangerous pathways that can lead to incarceration.
“All I want to say is that prison is like one of the worst experiences anyone can go through,” one of the individuals in the video recounted. “People get sent there because they’re poor, because they can’t get jobs, because they don’t have anything else going for them, because they’re different, because they don’t have an education, because people in the mainstream society don’t want to deal with them.”
The video, titled “Prison Industrial Complex-Trans Views,” was created by TGI Justice and can be found on YouTube.
In continuing to expand on creating a narrative on the lives of LGTBQ individuals in prison, a guest speaker, Daniel Hernandez, spoke via video chat. Hernandez answered questions and spoke on personal experiences on being a transgender man in a women’s prison spanning from solitary confinement to incorrect hormone dosages.
“My public defender made sure that I was going to receive my medication and I even had a court order from the judge,” Hernandez said. “[The prison] pretty much disregarded everything and the medical department would do all types of tests that were uncomfortable.”
Hernandez’s artwork, which depicted a range of emotions felt while being incarcerated, was shown.
There are ways in which students can become involved in the effort towards fighting for justice towards LGBTQ prisoners including participating in demonstrations or becoming a part of the pen pal program in which an individual is paired with an LGBTQ prisoner. Information about the Black and Pink organization can be found at blackandpink.org.