A 29-year-old transgender’s successful appeal against a robbery sentence may pave the way for judicial and eventual prison reforms in Israel.
The hope comes after the Israeli Supreme Court reduced the convicted tran man’s jail term by five months on the ground that he faced harsher prison conditions than his two accomplices.
The defendant, who is going through a sex-change operation and has undergone breast removal surgery, was convicted of robbing a gas station in April 2010 and assaulting the attendant.
A district court had sentenced him and both his accomplices to 15 months in prison as well as ordered them to pay compensation to the attendant, who was threatened with a knife.
The court also asked prison authorities to send the trans man to a women’s prison, saying: ‘From a physiological standpoint, she is a woman and it doesn’t appear that there is anything preventing her from being sent to a women’s prison’.
However, his lawyer appealed against the sentence, pointing out that under Israel Prison Service (IPS) rules, transgender prisoners were herded from other prisoners and kept in solitary confinement.
According to IPS, convicts with ambiguous sexual identities have to be segregated from other prisoners so that they or those around them may not come to any harm. To ensure that, transgender prisoners are kept in isolation and barred from participating in the activities regular inmates are allowed to enjoy.
The three judges hearing the appeal reduced the sentence by five months and also ruled that ‘it should be taken into consideration during sentencing that transgender prisoners face solitary confinement’.
Till recently, gay and lesbian prisoners were not allowed conjugal visits by their partners, a right enjoyed by heterosexual inmates.
However, in July, the Haaretz newspaper reported IPS authorities as announcing that the discrimination would be removed.