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How to Begin Transition in Prison

New Jersey’s prison system, was recently bound by a settlement which came from a lawsuit filed by transgender inmate “Sonia Doe V. New Jersey Department of Corrections. The settlement is what mandated NJDOC to provide various accommodations to transgender and non-binary inmates.

The first thing one need to do is alert their administration. All too often does prison staff ignore the inmate. So you should alert admin and medical staff. Following this, the federal law kicks in, which is PREA. Pursuant to this law staff must provide you with safe housing. They must also consider whether it’s safe to house you in a male prison or a female prison. Within New Jersey their is a board (PAC) who is charged with this responsibility. Once you have alerted staff, your next request is for Gender affirming items, these are items that will help you in your transition this includes make-up, female deodorant, beauty items, and clothing. This is usually the hardest part given the administrations who are often failing to provide these items, and when they do its often a sports bra which does no support, or affirm us.

The next thing, for you maybe hormones. This is somewhat tricky in New Jersey. Rather than just having to go to medical and ask for hormones, you have to be diagnosed with gender dysphoria. This means that you have a strong desire to live as the other gender. As current there is no gender specialist within New Jersey DOC which is why your regular clinician may be the one who evaluates you for this. Once you have been diagnosed with GD, you must make a request through medical.

Following hormones, you may want to pursue surgery. Although DOC is saying that this is a option, the fact remains that no inmate has obtained gender affirming surgery within NJ. However a long complicated process does exist. You will need to get two letters from Mental Health saying that you are diagnosed wit gender dysphoria, and are okay to go through surgery. This part is complicated, because staff can take months to do your evaluation. Following the evaluation and granting letters, you are then supposed to be scheduled by medical for a consult with the surgeon who will make the final decision regarding surgery.

This information is intended just to give family members and friends of incarcerated transgender people an idea of the path towards transitioning while in prison,. There are plenty of more things. I will add these things at a later date.

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