“Unwritten Rules” Rather Than Legislation Applied to LGBT Inmates

Source: Çiçek Tahaoğlu, “Mahpus LGBT’lere Mevzuat Değil “Yazısız Kurallar” Uygulanıyor,” (“Unwritten Rules” Rather Than Legislation Applied to LGBT Inmates,”) bianet, 7 November 2013, http://www.bianet.org/bianet/lgbtt/151135-mahpus-lgbt-lere-mevzuat-degil-yazisiz-kurallar-uygulaniyor?bia_source=twitter&utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitter

Civil Society in the Penal System Foundation (CISST) brought attention to the isolation imposed on LGBT inmates. They stated that there is no such legislation on the issue but that prison administrations’ “apply unwritten rules.”

CISST released their report for the Project of Inmates with Special Needs and stated that the main problem LGBT inmates face is isolation.

They stated that legislation concerning LGBT inmates must be drafted but that one prison for LGBT inmates would cause more discrimination and labeling.

“Unwritten rules means “I will do what I want””

CISST visited Maltepe No: 6 L Type Closed Penal Institution where 11 trans women are imprisoned with one academic, one lawyer, representatives of LISTAG, SPoD LGBT, Istanbul LGBTT, and Lambdaistanbul.

Mustafa Eren stated that the problems begin at the moment of entry to the prison. Three women among the visitors were told to remove their bras to enter the prison, which suggests that the treatment of inmates may be much worse than the treatment of the research visitors.

Eren stated that their visitation permit from the Ministry of Justice did not include visits to the wards or talks with inmates. Eren asked one of the sub-managers of the prison if they had  legislation regarding LGBT inmates and the manager replies, “There is no legislation about this subject. There are unwritten rules as well as written rules. There are unwritten rules about this subject and the administrations applies these unwritten rules.”

The application of unwritten rules and the lack of accountability means that rules are determined by prison administrators and are ways of saying “I will do what I want.”

“An LGBT prison would cause labeling”

Eren evaluated the isolation debates of LGBT inmates like this:

“The prison administration stated that 11 inmates are kept in 3-4 wards. Keeping 11 inmates in 3-4 wards means they are held in groups of 2-3 people. This verifies the claims of isolation (Small Group Isolation).”

“Sometimes LGBT inmates themselves do not want to be put together with other inmates to preserve security of their lives. However, they must be find a way to include them in social life.”

Eren also discussed the Ministry of Justice’s plan to construct and put all LGBT inmates in one separate LGBT prison and said, “Founding an LGBT prison means that even the visitors to that prison will be labeled. The solution is not to put all LGBT inmates in one prison but to solve the existing problems in the prison system.”

“LGBT people who visit prisons are also harassed”

One of the visitors, Lambdaistanbul volunteer Elif Avcı, stated that LGBT inmates live according to the decisions of prison administrators. Administrators claim that the needs of LGBT inmates are for sale in the prison shop, however, Avcı does not think this is possible.

Avcı also stated that LGBT people who visit their friends in prison are also verbally and sexually harassed.

What should be done?

CISST listed the measures necessary to end LGBT inmates’ isolation:

  • Prison employees and inmates should be educated in order to eradicate discriminatory attitudes. LGBT organizations should be encouraged to hold workshops in prisons. LGBT inmates social adaptation should be increased through these workshops.

  • The limited common areas should be increased. LGBT inmates’ security concerns should be resolved and their participation in workshops and ateliers with other inmates should be enabled.

  • When common areas are insufficient, the [already low numbers of] LGBT inmates’ employment should be ensured and they should get to choose their work spaces like the hairdresser, the cafeteria, the library, etc. This way, living in a prison within the prison should be prevented.

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