Know Your Rights: Criminal Law


There are numerous reasons that transgender persons are more susceptible to ending up in the criminal justice system. Due to widespread and pervasive systemic discrimination, transgender persons frequently experience relatively higher levels of unemployment, homelessness, lack of identification, lack of healthcare, gender policing, and exposure to violence or harassment. The intersection between race and class can add additional layers that make transgender persons a constant target of law enforcement professionals. According to a demographic study of men’s prisons in California, 35% of transgender inmates are Black, 28% are Latino, 1% are Asian/Pacific Islander, and 28% are White. They are slightly older than the general prison population, are disproportionately incarcerated for crimes against property, and tend to have higher levels of educational attainment than other inmates. Transgender persons are also more likely to be unemployed one month before their arrest, are more likely to suffer from depression, other mental health issues, or be HIV-positive (60-80%), and 20% report being homeless before their most recent incarceration. 1

  1. Where the Margins Meet: A Demographic Assessment of Transgender Inmates in Men’s Prisons, University of California, Irvine’s Center for Evidence-Based Correction,, Last visited May 22, 2014; see also Transgender Inmates in California’s Prisons: An Empirical Study of a Vulnerable Population, Presented by Valerie Jenness, Ph.D., Center for Evidence-Based Corrections, to California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation Wardens’ Meeting, April 2009,, Last visited May 22, 2014.