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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE | August 19, 2005

In Historic First, Advocates for LGBT Prisoners Address National Prison Rape Elimination Commission


(San Francisco, CA, August 19, 2005) — Today, in an historic first, legal advocates for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth and adults provided testimony to the National Prison Rape Elimination Commission. Jody Marksamer (National Center for Lesbian Rights), Chris Daley (Transgender Law Center), Cecilia Chung (Transgender Law Center), Dean Spade (The Sylvia Rivera Law Project), Scott Long (Human Rights Watch LGBT Program) were invited by the commission to offer testimony concerning prison sexual abuse perpetrated by inmates and correctional staff against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth and adults confined in Federal, State, and local adult and youth institutions.

The hearing was designed to promote a greater public understanding of the serious repercussions of prison sexual assault and help foster among government officials and the American public the resolve to eliminate this problem.

"In a prison environment where sexual violence is generally rampant and homophobia is a given, it is well known that being lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender places a prisoner at heightened risk of torture, sexual assault, and rape. This is also true for LGBT youth in juvenile correctional facilities. Transgender youth and adults are particularly vulnerable to sexual abuse, harassment, and forced nudity in correctional facilities." testified NCLR Equal Justice Works Fellow Attorney, Jody Marksamer.

"One of the most significant obstacles to meaningful change is the lack of information that policymakers, advocates, and government have about transgender, intersex, and gender non-conforming prisoners," said Silvia Rivera Law Project founder, Dean Spade. "This lack of knowledge has caused real harm to countless individuals."

"This hearing is a significant step forward in breaking the code of silence that has formed around sexual violence against transgender prisoners. Thanks to the Commission, former prisoners, advocates, and criminal justice professionals will have an opportunity, some for the first time ever, to talk about how to wake our country up from the nightmare of prison rape and sexual coercion," said Cecilia Chung, Deputy Director of the Transgender Law Center. "It also provides us an opportunity to provide the nation with common sense solutions for reducing the number of transgender people in jails and prisons and for creating safe housing for those transgender prisoners who are incarcerated."

"We hope that testimony provided to the Commission today, will create a greater understanding of the scope of sexual violence against incarcerated LGBT youth and adults, as well as assist in the development of recommendations that will enhance the prevention of prisoner sexual assault and address the homophobic culture of correctional facilities," explained Marksamer.

The National Center for Lesbian Rights is a national legal organization committed to advancing the civil and human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people and their families through litigation, public policy advocacy, and public education.

Founded in 2002, the Transgender Law Center is an independent non-profit that uses direct legal services, education, community organizing, and policy and media advocacy to improve laws and regulations in California that affect our community's ability to fully express our diverse gender identities in a discrimination free environment. TLC was co-counsel in the Northern California civil rights case of a transgender prisoner that successfully settled in 2004. TLC is currently co-counsel in the civil rights case of a transgender prisoner denied medical treatment in Orange County, CA.

Human Rights Watch is the largest human rights organization based in the United States. Human Rights Watch researchers conduct fact-finding investigations into human rights abuses in all regions of the world. Human Rights Watch then publishes those findings in dozens of books and reports every year, generating extensive coverage in local and international media.

media contacts:

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Erik Olvera
Director of Communications
National Center for Lesbian Rights
office: 415.392.6257 x324
EOlvera@NCLRights.org

Bethany Woolman
Communications Associate
National Center for Lesbian Rights
office: 415.392.6257 x305
BWoolman@NCLRights.org

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