The majority of inmates in the Anthony Unit at Shakopee Prison dawned blue apparel in protest as they demanded changes to the way LGBTQ people were treated within the prison walls, according to IncarceratedWorkers.org
Out of the 130 inmates in the Anthony Unit, one-hundred wore blue, which is the only other color they can wear without being further punished, to show support for LGBTQ people who demand equal treatment, to end the harassing and discriminatory environment within the prison. and to create LGBTQ groups. At Shakopee prison, LGBTQ inmates are often denied medical treatment as a punishment, as well as having their mail censored. The prison also has a “no-touch” policy that, according to the inmates, disproportionately affects LGBTQ people.
Take Simone Stillday, a lesbian prisoner, for example. She said that she was placed in solitary confinement because her former’s foot accidentally touched the tip of her shoe while stretching her legs. Unintentional touching hardly merits punishment, especially touching that included no skin-to-skin contact.
Dianne Current and Joe Vanderford, two transgender inmates, are also victims of the discriminatory policies in place at the prison, as when Dianne, a former prisoner, asked for hormones she was placed in solitary confinement. Joe has also been denied hormone treatment, but he and Dianne are very understandably fed up with this neglect.
The Twin Cities Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee, in support of LGBTQ inmates, distributed petitions both online and at Pride and has since gathered over 500 signatures. The petitions seem to have worked, as Associate Warden Bosch proclaimed that the prison will be ending its “no-touch” policy in September after he and Warden Beltz leave. However, there are no reports on whether or not Joe will be getting his hormones or whether or not any LGBTQ groups will be organizing, but you know what they say: you have to learn to crawl before you can walk.
Even though these LGBTQ people are in prison, they’re still people and, as such, should be treated like everyone else. By sending them to solitary confinement for accidental touching or denying trans inmates the hormone treatments they need, the staff at Shakopee Prison is demonstrating that straight inmates come first and that LGBTQ inmates are less important. I’m glad that their voices are being heard and that things are changing for the better because after all, LGBTQ inmates still deserve basic respect.