Strategic Segregation in the Modern Prison
110 Pages Posted: 26 Jul 2011
For more than three decades, the L.A. County Jail has been systematically separating out the gay men and trans women who come through the Jail and housing them wholly apart from the general population. This is to protect them from sexual victimization, to which they are especially vulnerable. This article draws on original research to provide an in-depth account of this segregation unit, which is known as K6G. The aim is both descriptive and evaluative - to describe the mechanics of the program and its implications for residents, and to assess a variety of objections to it. As the article shows, L.A. County has managed to create a surprisingly safe space for the high-risk populations K6G serves. That it has done so in a carceral system that is severely overcrowded and notoriously volatile makes the success of the program even more remarkable. There is, however, no getting around it: with K6G, L.A. County is engaged in a process of state-sponsored, identity-based segregation. Equally troubling, K6G is woefully underinclusive, leaving unprotected many vulnerable people who are neither gay nor trans. This article carefully considers and responds to these objections. It also addresses a third, constitutional objection: that, even should prison administrators in L.A. County or elsewhere wish to follow a K6G model, they would be precluded from doing so on Equal Protection grounds. Two appendices accompany the article: a detailed description of the research methodology and a reproduction of the 176-question instrument used to structure the 32 formal interviews conducted with K6G residents.
Keywords: prison, jail, punishment, prison rape, PREA, LGBT, transgender, Equal Protection, prison administration, hypermasculinity
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