As the trial judge explained, White's sentence was intended to reflect his victim's particular vulnerability as a transgender inmate in an all-male prison unit and, we are satisfied, appropriately reflects what the government's evidence showed was the non-consensual nature of the encounter.While I'm generally predisposed to favor more lenient sentencing, this strikes me as appropriate. "Reduced physical capacity" is a real stretch, since trans people aren't physically impaired in any way by virtue of being trans. But trans people are certainly especially vulnerable to abuse in prisons, especially given the dominant practice in the U.S. of housing inmates on the basis of their birth sex. And when a prison guard exploits that vulnerability, a sentencing enhancement may serve to deter such exploitation in the future.
Friday, December 26, 2008
Increased sentence for targeting trans prisoner
In White v. U.S., the D.C. Court of Appeals affirmed a sentencing enhancement for a prison guard who physically and sexually assaulted a transgender prisoner. The sentencing judge reasoned that the prisoner's trangender status constituted a "reduced physical capacity" under the D.C. sentencing guidelines, thereby meriting the tougher sentence. The appeals court said it would not decide whether trangender status is actually a form of "reduced physical capacity," because the D.C. guidelines are purely advisory, and it doesn't really matter whether judges interpret them correctly in a given case. The court nevertheless upheld the enhancement: