On the afternoon of September 27, 50 activists marched in Hartford, Connecticut, to demand justice for incarcerated 16-year-old transgender girl Jane Doe (referred to as such because she is a minor). Jane Doe’s case rose to the national spotlight earlier in 2014, when Connecticut’s Department of Children and Family Services (DCF) placed Jane in solitary confinement in an adult women’s prison without charges.
Over the summer, Jane Doe’s situation only worsened as DCF’s commissioner, Joette Katz, sent Jane to Connecticut Juvenile Training School, a prison-like boys’ facility, despite Jane being a girl and there being an explicit ruling by a judge forbidding the placement. To make matters worse, DCF has chosen to ignore the fact that over 10 supportive families have offered to adopt Jane. Jane’s lawyer, Aaron Romano, said: “DCF’s plan for Jane is to keep her in CJTS and treat her like a boy until she loses it.”
Jane Doe has been the victim of violent anti-trans hate crimes, trafficked for sex by DCF workers, and sexually abused by family members, foster families and DCF employees assigned to her case. The abuse began at an extremely young age, and instead of interfering on Jane’s behalf, Joette Katz has continued to flippantly dismiss Jane’s court affidavit, in which Jane detailed the horrors. Rally participants demanded the immediate firing of Joette Katz, a safe and therapeutic placement for Jane Doe, the overturning of statute 17a-12 (the obscure law allowing the imprisonment of DCF wards without charges) and an independent investigation of DCF’s child abuse.
Supporters of Jane Doe gathered outside of DCF headquarters before the march, including the Yale Undergraduate Prison Project, the Party for Socialism and Liberation, and LGBTQ youth who spoke out in solidarity.
Ivey, a 16-year-old trans girl like Jane, had similar experiences: “I was abused by a state program, like Jane,” she said. “My case never went through because of DCF… My mom saw my scars and I told her, the institution is that bad.”
Ivey later told Liberation News about the “therapy” DCF provided: “I saw kids being restrained for no reason. I saw staff members teasing kids so they couldn’t sleep at night. [The staff would] take me out of bed and sexually assault me. I remember not eating, not sleeping, praying to die and shaking every morning from the stress. I kept my mouth shut, because if I said anything, they might tell my mom not to visit me. They didn’t let her visit anyways, but she eventually came to where I was out of suspicion.”
It is imperative that LGBTQ people and allies continue building solidarity for Jane Doe. Transgender people, especially transgender women, face overwhelming discrimination in their everyday lives; 63 percent of transgender people who have experienced sexual and/or physical abuse attempt suicide.
Over the summer of 2014, seven transgender women, many of them women of color, were brutally murdered in the United States. Islan Nettles, the 21-year-old transgender woman beaten to death in New York City in August 2013, still has not received justice; her killer still walks free. Jane Doe’s case is not isolated, but part of a larger system of institutional oppression.
That’s why it is crucial for LGBTQ people to fight for socialist liberation. Under a system of socialism, anti-trans violence would not be tolerated, and people would be able to self-determine their gender identities. Mass incarceration – which affects poor people, people of color and queer people – would no longer plague our communities, because there would be no profit-based prison system. People like Jane would receive the therapy, education, and health care they need, instead of wasting away in a system that punishes victims.