Text of the letter:
Dear Kenneth Lassiter,
We are human rights organizations, LGBTQ activists, and people of conscience.
We demand that Kanautica Zayre-Brown (No. 0618705) be transferred to a women’s facility.
We write on behalf of our community member, Kanautica Zayre-Brown, regarding the conditions of her confinement. Ms. Zayre-Brown is a woman who is transgender. She is presently incarcerated in a men’s facility where her safety and well-being are compromised. Every day she is housed among men, forced to shower in group showers for men, and subjected to the constant indignities and threats to her health and safety that come with being stripped of her core identity. These gross violations of Ms. Zayre-Brown’s constitutional rights are putting her at great risk of serious harm.
We demand that the North Carolina Department of Public Safety (“DPS”) ensure that Ms. Zayre-Brown is placed in gender appropriate housing and provided with medically necessary treatment. To remedy the ongoing violations of Ms. Zayre-Brown’s constitutional rights, she should be immediately moved to a facility for women, not placed in restrictive housing, provided access to a private shower, and given all medically necessary treatment, including appropriate grooming items and undergarments. She should be allowed to participate in the full range of programming that may be available to her.
We also want to emphasize that Kanautica’s situation is not unique. The obstacles Kanautica has faced in receiving essential medical treatment — and now gender appropriate housing — is emblematic of the systemic abuse and neglect that trans and gender nonconforming people face in prison.
A 2015 survey of transgender individuals revealed that of the ones who had been incarcerated in a jail, prison, or juvenile detention facility for any length of time, 30% reported being physically or sexually assaulted by staff or other inmates, many of them multiple times — a rate 5-6 times higher than in the general incarcerated population.(1) Courts have stated that the heightened risk faced by transgender prisoners requires prisons to take additional steps to protect these inmates, such as housing them in gender appropriate housing.(2) If prison officials do not uphold this duty to protect, they violate the Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment.
Putting Kanautica in protective custody or isolation in any facility is not the solution.(3)
Please expedite the review of Kanautica’s case and immediately transfer her to a women’s facility - in accordance with her wishes, constitutional protections, and inherent rights to dignity and respect.
Kanautica needs safety and protection, not harassment and abuse. We the undersigned organizations and individuals eagerly await your response to this letter and your assurance that Ms. Zayre-Brown will receive an immediate transfer to gender-appropriate housing and that her medical needs will be attended to without delay.
1) The Report of the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey by the National Transgender Center for Equality.2) See Lojan v. Crumbsie, 12 CV. 0320 LAP, 2013 WL 411356, at *4 (S.D.N.Y. Feb. 1, 2013) (mere knowledge that plaintiff was transgender was sufficient to put prison officials on notice that she was susceptible to physical attack).3) See Medina-Tejada v. Sacramento County, No. Civ.S-04-138FDC/ DAD, 2006 WL 463158, at *8 (E.D. Cal. Feb. 27, 2006) (transgender prisoners should not be subject to automatic segregation); Tates, 2003 WL 23864868, at *9-10 (same).; 28 C.F.R. § 115.43(a).