A Trans Prisoner Sued Her Prison—and Won a Victory for Trans Inmates Across the Country

In an emphatic ruling, Judge Denise Oakes Shaffer affirmed the rights of trans inmates under a federal law called the Prison Rape Elimination Act.

News Story (Maryland)

Mark Joseph Stern
September 28, 2015

Tags: LGBTQ, Prisoners Rights, Solitary Confinement

Organizations mentioned/involved: FreeState Justice (MD)


In 2014, trans Maryland inmate Sandy Brown was transferred to the Patuxent Institution—a maximum-security prison—for a mental health assessment. Upon discovering that Brown identified as a woman and had both breasts and male genitalia, correction officers decided to place her in solitary confinement. The prison staff decided that Brown posed “a possible threat to the security of the institution”—simply because she was trans.

It then held her in solitary confinement for no particular reason, long after her assessment was complete. During that time, officers watched her in the shower, told her she would never be a woman, and called her “disgusting.” Officers also came to her cell to harass her, calling her a “fag” and encouraging her to kill herself.

Brown sued Patuxent Institution for mistreating her—and won a massive victory for trans inmates across the country.