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Rikers Island Makes Transgender Accomodations

Rikers Island Makes Transgender Accomodations
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Transgender women incarcerated at Rikers Island now have the option of living in separate facilities from the rest of the prison.

Beginning this week, transgender women at Rikers Island are getting new housing options. A new facility has been designated specifically as a male-to-female transgender housing unit. Moving to the unit is voluntary for prisoners, and advocates hope that having the option might help the transgender women of Rikers to escape harassment and violence. 

Cris Benjamin, or "Mr. Cris," as he likes to be called, is the executive director and confounder of advocacy group Community Kinship Life. He said he thinks Rikers is taking a step in the right direction in terms of treating transgender prisoners humanely. 

"Yes, they might have committed a crime, yes, there might be a reason why they're incarcerated, but that doesn't mean that they're less of a human being," Benjamin said. 

But, he added, there is still some room for improvement. He noted that female-to-male transgender prisoners also suffer, but get much less attention. 

"If a female to make transgender individual has not started hormones, they'll just assume they're a butch lesbian," he said. "So there's a lot of invisibility of trans men."

The city's Department of Correction has said that there are not enough transgender men in Rikers to justify installing additional housing for them.