A prisoner rights group say there's a culture of "trans/queerphophia and discrimination" at the Shakopee women's prison and have made a list of seven demands they want met by June 22, National Pride Day, a gay pride day often marked by parades and celebrations.
The IWW Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee, which works to improve prison conditions and an end to mass incarceration, posted a petition on its Facebook page with the following demands that the state corrections department:
- Approve a request by Shakopee inmate Anna (who goes by the name Joe) Vanderford for testosterone hormone therapy, saying Vanderford is a trans-man diagnosed with gender dysphoria who has been denied hormones as a Minnesota prisoner for over 20 years in Oklahoma and California. They say under DOC policy, Vanderford meets the criteria to receive hormones, but the DOC is stalling.
- Stop rejecting LGBTQ literature.
- Create an LGBTQ advocate for the DOC, and LGBTQ groups in each prison.
- Train all staff and prisoners on queer and trans rights.
- Have trans-people on the transgender board that makes decisions about hormone access.
- Stop punishing people by denying medical treatment, including hormones.
- End the "no touch policy" immediately. They say Shakopee prisoners are punished for physical touch of any kind, be it a high five or helping someone up who fell out of a wheelchair. This is a homophobic policy and disastrous for everyone's health and well-being, and is not a policy at men's facilities.The IWW Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee quoted a Shakopee prisoner who said if they touch someone "even in the slightest, you go straight to segregation" or solitary confinement at the Minnesota Correctional Facility-Shakopee.
Vanderford is serving a life sentence for the 1987 murder of a former boyfriend in what Vanderford's attorney called a "love story gone wrong." Vanderford, 51, told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS a request for hormone therapy was denied by the state last fall.
"I know it's a really difficult issue," Vanderford told the TV station in a phone interview. “I’m asking for trans-affirming health care.”
DOC spokeswoman Sarah Fitzgerald said "While we cannot discuss an individual’s medical file, we do want to be responsive and be on the forefront of this issue. Commissioner Schnell has committed to reviewing this case and to ensuring that we follow a fair and equitable approach."
According to numbers provided by the DOC, about a half dozen transgender inmates have been on state-covered hormones since 2017, at an annual cost that was about $3,042 in 2017 and $1,749 this year so far, for a total of $6,379 in the past three years.