Men’s Safety, Women’s Danger: An Incarcerated Woman Speaks Out

Editor’s Note: This is an essay submitted by Kokila Hiatt, a female inmate currently incarcerated at the Edna Mahan Correctional Facility for Women in New Jersey. Minimal editing has been done to preserve the integrity of her narrative.

Across America, prison policies are being designed and implemented which cater to incarcerated transgender people. These policies purport to ensure the safety and dignity of men who self-identify as the opposite sex by housing them in prisons with women.

Though these policies are relatively new, they have quickly proven to be dangerous for female inmates. Reports of women being physically and sexually assaulted, threatened, and harassed by males housed alongside them in female institutions have already emerged, and more are sure to follow.

I first became cognizant of this issue when the prison housing unit I lived in was inundated with these so-called “gender dysphoric” males.

I have been incarcerated since 2010, but nothing could have prepared me for the incoming tidal wave of a group of these males into the prison. I was completely unaware that us women would ever be housed with men, and, what’s more, I was left shocked at the myriad of ways the New Jersey Department of Corrections was prepared to facilitate and defend their access to our traditionally female-only space.

It felt as though it was a random trickle at first.

For the longest time, Leslie Nelson was the only male inmate in the prison who identified as transgender. Nelson, who has had all of the gender surgeries, had been in Edna Mahan for decades after being convicted of murdering two police officers in the 1990s.

Then, there was Daniel Demers, who was transferred a year or two ago, and Perry Cerf. Cerf was transferred from Trenton after he had his genital surgeries.

All of a sudden, following a settlement between the ACLU and the state of New Jersey which required people to be housed based on their gender identity, the trickle turned into a flood.

Kokila Hiatt. Photo provided by inmate and published with consent.

At that time, the prison administration informed us that if we complained about the influx of male inmates, we would be punished. In particular, we would be moved to accommodations that were crowded and had less privacy within the prison. We were effectively silenced and the gender dysphoric males knew it.

For complaining about them, I have received backlash from the transgender males here. Their tactics ranged from verbal harassment and threats of violence to multiple allegations causing me to be investigated by the prison. One of those allegations resulted in me being placed in a lockdown unit for three days.

I am not the only female inmate who has experienced consequences, other women have been harassed and bullied too.

After witnessing how these males manipulate their “transgender” classification status and how their presence here has negatively impacted the treatment of women by New Jersey Department of Corrections staff, I began seeking out information about how this could be allowed.

I learned that policies like this and others which allow gender dysphoric males to enter female-only spaces are the result of primarily male trans activists pushing for access to female spaces. These policies overwhelmingly result in women being more readily accessible to male-bodied people who are a threat to our safety.

Interestingly, despite these policies being in place in multiple states, no female who identifies as transgender has been placed in a male prison. This fact demonstrates an inescapable truth: That male bodies are dangerous to female ones regardless of a person’s gender identity. Why is placing a female in a men’s prison understood to be dangerous for her, but placing males in a women’s prison deemed safe?

I oppose males being housed here, and, more broadly speaking, men having access to female-only spaces. Gender dysphoric males pose the same physical risks to women as other men, and women stand very little chance of protecting themselves from people who are, on average, larger, faster, and stronger than them.

I want to actively take a stand against these policies that put women in danger. All women deserve protection, and we all need to do our part to ensure it.

Women require female-only prisons in order to be mentally and physically protected, something which is treated as irrelevant in the development and implementation of these policies which are based on self-declared gender identity.

Women in prison are frequently victims of sexual abuse while incarcerated. From 2009 to 2011, national data on sexual victimization in prison showed that female inmates, despite being only 7% of the overall prison population, accounted for 33% of reported sexual assaults by prison staff. I have also read that up to 85% of female inmates have experienced sexual or physical abuse throughout their lifetimes. Abused women are the least likely group of people to defend or assert themselves, especially against a man.

Our existence in female bodies inherently makes us vulnerable to physical and sexual assault. We are being forced to allow men, some of whom are convicted sexual predators, to claim victimhood and have their concerns placed above our own.

Experiencing the ordeal of being trapped in prison with gender dysphoric males made me appreciate the work of the women who throughout history have fought for our right to safety. It is the legacy of their advocacy which makes me hopeful for change.

I believe with enough exposure and activism we can right this wrong.

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Reduxx is your stop for pro-woman, pro-child safeguarding news and opinion that goes outside the mainstream narratives.