Woman Speaks Out Against Abuses of Trans Prisoners in Idaho

Via Questioning Transphobia comes this story about Antonia Lara, a trans woman speaking out against the mistreatment that she and a cell mate, Majid Kolestani, received in jail:

Lara, who lives in Jerome, said jail officials also made disparaging remarks toward her while booking her.

“They were making comments the whole time, bringing people by the window so they could laugh at me like I was some freak show,” Lara told the Times News. “These people are the people who are supposed to serve and protect.”

Twin Falls County Jail Administrator Capt. Douglas Hughes said the transgender inmates were classified as men when they were taken into custody, and so they were not put in cells with female prisoners. The transgender women were placed in a cell by themselves as a precaution, because in the general jail population “they become preyed on,” Hughes said.

“We treat them as they need to be treated, and we offer them the kind of treatment that is needed by law,” he said.

[. . .]

Kolestani has taken female hormones, but while in jail was denied the treatments for several months, Lara said. Medical staff at the jail are aware of Kolestani’s needs, Hughes said.

As Helen said in her original post, any law which allows the withholding of medication is inherently unjust and in breach of human rights.  Indeed, it’s inherently abusive.  And in this case, it’s inherently discriminatory.

And that makes me physically ill.  It should make all of us physically ill, when our judicial system repeatedly attempts to strip women of their gender identities, openly mocks and belittles them, and denies them medical treatment and other very basic amenities like a bra.  It’s absolutely disgusting and should outrage all of us.

And this is even more true once we recognize that the much bigger, overarching problem is that what these two women endured is not an isolated incident or even the worst of the abuses that women in similar situations are subjected to.  Trans women are routinely abused in jail and prison. (As, of course, are women of color; another group that both women fall into.)  They are physically assaulted and sexually abused.  And they are not only regularly falsely identified as male and housed in male prisons; very commonly, they are put in cells with male prisoners who repeatedly rape and otherwise abuse them.  Often in addition to police and prison guards who do the same.

If Lara and Kolestani endured these types of abuses in addition to the ones laid out above, they have not apparently said as much.  And that means that the horrific abuses they endued are actually, terribly enough, on the relatively lower end of the abuse spectrum.  This bears pointing out not because it in any way lessens what was done to Lara and Kolestani, but precisely because it compounds it.

The guilt or innocence of either Lara or Kolestani also makes no difference here.  Even if Kolestani was guilty of murdering her husband (it bears stressing that she also suffered a gunshot wound and maintains her innocence), human rights are human rights.  And everyone deserves basic medical care and protection from violence, both of which she is not currently receiving.

Antonia Lara certainly has my praise and respect for choosing to speak out about these injustices and violations of human rights.  It’s a very brave move on her part.  And I wonder when officials across this country, and the ordinary citizens who have the power to pressure them, will begin to listen and take action.

With that in mind, the Twin Falls County Jail seems to be run by the Twin Falls County Sheriff’s Office.  Their contact information is here.

6 thoughts on “Woman Speaks Out Against Abuses of Trans Prisoners in Idaho

  1. Nikki

    This is incredibly upsetting to me, as a resident of Idaho. Idaho has a long track-record of homophobia, transphobia, misogyny, and transmisogyny. I hope these women are able to receive justice.

  2. Antonia Lara

    Many ppl think b/c we have a black President discrimination no longer exists. Here is my story.. As a woman, a Chicana, and Transgendered I get to encounter many prejudices. I was fired from my job before I even walked in the door.. My employer had no clue I was Transgender. Let me say for the record; I am not embarrassed, or ashamed to be Trans. If someone asks me I will gladly tell them; however, I don’t feel I should have to approach every person w/ a hand shake and a sign on my forehead!
    I did an article in the newspaper about discrimination and bias in the community towards a minority group of ppl. After my employer read the article I was fired. Which justifies everything I discussed in the paper. While this is illegal, I worked for a private employer, w/ private pay. Which changes the dynamics of the situation. Not-to-mention, Idaho is a right-to-work State. Now, I have always been the type of person to fight for the civil rights of all types of ppl. This deliberate indifference will not go w/o litigation. I was born in Twin Falls. I have worked in this area since I was 12 yr. old, and pay taxes like the rest of you.
    I was his best employee, went in early, left late.
    All I did was talk about something I deal with on a daily basis. I brought it to the faces of the ppl. I am forced to live my life on the margins of society, and brave ostracism on a daily, just to be who I am. To be happy. Why should I have to compromise my life & happiness b/c of archaic narrow-minded views certain ppl in our society still hold as true? I did the article with the sole intention on providing education & awareness to the community I live in. About a diverse and vulnerable group of ppl, living in a progressive society. All I did was give them a voice.
    I don’t regret the article.. To live in regret, is to never have lived..
    However, I worry that maybe by doing the article I have created an even more hostile/discriminatory environment toward this minority group of ppl.. Don’t get it twisted either, I spent a lot of time living in the Phoeniquera. So, don’t let the cute face, slim waste, and thick caramel thighs fool you. I handle mine!
    Thankfully & Respectfully,
    In Solidarity,
    Antonia Lara

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  6. Brynn Close

    i to had the same experiance with mistreatment in that jail but i was assaulted and denied medical treatment and sat 7 days with a broken neck ans now have since been diagnosed with ptsd ,post traumatic stress anxiety ,personality disorder My experiances left me scared for life the captain should be demoted or fired im scared because of a mistomenor charge I was found not guilty of. They need policy change ans sencitivity training horible coments from guards ,protective coustody in a disiplinary cell block where trans women are verbaly abused and worse december 28 2008 is a time in my life i have to live with for life.!!!!


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