A transgender woman identified in court papers as Sonia Doe has been awarded $125,000 for being forced to live in a men’s prison in New Jersey for a year and a half. The Court also awarded her $45,000 in attorney fees along with a state policy change beginning July 1, 2021, to house inmates by their gender identification.
Between the time Ms. Doe entered prison in March 2018 and filing her lawsuit in August 2019, the DOC confined her in four different men’s prisons, despite its knowledge that she is a woman. DOC staff tried to force Ms. Doe to live as a man, consistently misgendered her, and subjected her to daily discrimination, harassment, and even outright violence because she is transgender.
According to the ACLU of NJ, two weeks after filing the lawsuit, the DOC announced it would transfer Ms. Doe to the women’s prison, a move that her lawyers had asked the Court to order.
“When I was forced to live in men’s prisons, I was terrified I wouldn’t make it out alive. Those memories still haunt me,” Doe said in a statement as reported by the Associated Press. “Though I still have nightmares about that time, said Sonia Doe, it’s a relief to know that as a result of my experience the NJDOC has adopted substantial policy changes so no person should be subjected to the horrors I survived.”
Newsweek reports that other protections include single-cell housing while final housing determinations are being made; being able to shower separately from other inmates; the right to have input into housing decisions and to appeal those decisions, and a prohibition of physical examinations to determine an inmate’s genital status. Pat-down searches or strip searches by transgender women by male officers will be prohibited.
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