The Limits of Transgender Incarceration Reform

Ido Katri, Lihi Yona

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This Article explores the incarceration conditions of trans and
gender-nonconforming (TGNC) people in Israel. The lived experience of TGNC
people reflects the inherent incoherence of sex/gender and of the carceral system, two regimes of violence that derive power from their promise to provide stability and certitude to society. To uncover the practical meaning of these theoretical positions, the Article examines the Israel Prison Service (IPS) at a unique juncture: before and after an attempt to reform its policies regarding TGNC prisoners. An analysis of these reforms against the backdrop of the previous policy illustrates the carceral system's inability to meaningfully transform the treatment of TGNC prisoners. To demonstrate this systemic failure, the Article
centers the voices of two incarcerated trans women: Dorin and Lena. Both
women have lived in male and female facilities before and after the reform. Their
demands for safe and dignified treatment have reshaped IPS practices. Following
Dorin and Lena's stories, this Article argues that the IPS's inability to properly
accommodate TGNC prisoners is rooted in the logic of carceral systems
themselves, which relies upon gender segregation and isolation as means for
protection and rehabilitation. This examination reveals the futility of attempts to
define who are and are not "real" men and women. And, by examining the IPS's
limited ability to reform its use of administrative segregation for TGNC
prisoners, the theoretical inconsistencies and perniciousness of incarceration
itself is exposed. Attempts to distinguish coherently between criminals and non-criminals, women and men, and trans and cis people, and to spatially segregate
them according to such classifications, contradicts the heterogeneity and
intersectionality of lived experiences and obscures the systemic use of
institutional violence to hold these categories in place. Gender nonconformity is
situated in this Article as a thread that, when pulled, unravels the carceral regime
as a whole
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)201-247
JournalYale Journal of Law and Feminism
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2020
Externally publishedYes


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