Why can’t we just make up?: On the hypocrisy of transactivism in the prison abolition movement

NPIP is founded on the recognition that the prison system does not to function primarily in the interest of public safety, as we are lead to believe. Reoffending rates are high, and prisons are violent, not rehabilitative, institutions. They do not reduce crime rates – if that was their purpose, indigenous women would not be incarcerated at a higher rate than any other demographic.

Yet recently, NPIP’s activism has focused heavily – disproportionately, even – on transgender inmates. In 2015, NPIP successfully campaigned to move Jade Follett, a male who identifies as transgender, into a women’s prison after he was sentenced to 21 months for stabbing – it took just hours for the government to comply. Several NPIP spokespeople identify as trans themselves, and four of their abolitionist demands are specific to incarcerated people who identify as trans.

These demands seem to supersede any concerns NPIP has for women either in or outside of prisons. For instance, NPIP calls for the government to “End the practice of incarcerating trans people”, while it makes no mention of ending the incarceration of women, even though men who identify as transgender still exhibit the same pattern of violence against women as the general male population, and women commit only a fraction of all violent crime.

NPIP also calls on the government to “Allow for the immediate placement of all trans prisoners in a prison of their choosing”, with no concern for how this might affect women in (overcrowded) women’s prisons. Should Alex Aleti Seu, who committed sexual assault repeatedly, really have access to a women’s prison? Surely women in prison for “crimes” like benefit fraud should not be lumped with the extra punishment of sharing space with male sex offenders like Seu – just because those males might prefer it?


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