Justin Plamondon is a transgender woman locked up in the Secure Psychiatric Unit of the State Prison for Men in Concord and she is not alone in the prison system. There are 10 other transgender women who were also born male but identify as women incarcerated with men in Concord and one in the Berlin prison.
Plamondon takes female hormones, identifies as a woman, wears a bra and panties beneath her prison uniform, and does her eye make-up with colored pencils. Plamondon, 31, her face and body adorned with skull, faces and cherry blossom tattoos that she mostly inked herself, does the best she can to rid herself of the unwanted facial hair that came in adulthood because she was born male.
Prison is dangerous for people like her, Plamondon said during a recent interview at the Secure Psychiatric Unit. She said she was raped by another inmate in a different unit in November, suffered acute shock and is disappointed that the prison investigation has stalled.
“I was molested as a kid so as soon as something overtly sexual and violent happens around me, I shut down so he was able to do whatever he wanted to do,” said Plamondon.
She had reported to a guard earlier that she was uncomfortable around the inmate after coming out to him about her sexual identity. But it was too late, Plamondon said, and she was raped that night. She said she has had consensual sex in prison, but this was rape and she had evidence. “There was blood in my underpants,” Plamondon said.
“He refused to talk to the investigation so they said it was unsubstantiated. They said something definitely happened. It was not unfounded, but they can’t move any further with the investigation,” Plamondon said. She hopes to find an attorney to help her.
“I’ve been girlie since I can remember. I always felt something wrong with me gender-wise. Now that I’m out about the whole transgender thing, I feel better that I don’t have to hide anymore,” Plamondon said.
The downside is the treatment in prison. “They tell the guards to call us misses and maam,” she said.
But the male inmates can see her bra through her shirt and they now look at her as a woman, Plamondon said. “It makes me feel like a piece of meat. They say you’re a girl now. You can wear bras and panties and we’re giving you hormones now.
“But a male officer, we’re going to have him strip you out,” Plamondon said.
Plamondon is serving 3 ½ to 7 years for burglary and is eligible for parole in December, according to Jeff Lyons, spokesman for the Department of Corrections. Plamondon said her run-ins with the law started when she was a teen. Much of the time from age 13 to 17, she spent in the Youth Detention Center in Manchester for an arson Plamondon insists was accidental.
And life after that involved working as an unlicensed tattoo artist to pay for opiates. Heroin was her drug of choice, she said.
Plamondon has also served time for being a felon in possession of a firearm, receiving stolen property and reckless conduct, Lyons said. She told InDepthNH.org, she has been diagnosed with gender dysphoria, bipolar disorder and personality disorder.
Lyons said: “We are aware that this inmate reported being a sexual assault victim. The Department opened a criminal investigation in compliance with the federal Prison Rape Elimination Act standards. It is an ongoing investigation and I cannot comment any further.”
Lyons provided the reports the department is required to file with the U.S. Department of Justice that showed of 12 reported nonconsensual sexual acts by inmates against other inmates in 2015, the most recent year available, none were substantiated.
Nine were deemed unsubstantiated, meaning the investigation showed there was not enough evidence to prove the incident occurred. Three were unfounded meaning the investigation determined they never happened. Lyons said the state hasn’t paid for any transgender surgeries, but it’s the department’s policy to provide female hormones to transgender women as approved by the Gender Dysphoria Treatment Overview Committee.
Rep. David Welch, R-Kingston, chairman of the House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee, said he was concerned about the rape allegation and the fact that transgender women are being incarcerated with men.
“I’m kind of shocked they are giving them hormones if they are housed with men,” Welch said.
Welch said at a recent hearing on the use of solitary confinement, the committee heard a number of allegations of mistreatment at the Secure Housing Unit by inmates and corrections officers.
“It was more harassment type,” Welch said. “They did get a call from an inmate who said he was cut with a razor in a gang-related incident.”
Some of the mistreatment was alleged to have been committed by the officers, but most of those complaints involved ignoring inmate complaints, he said.
“In some cases, the correctional officers won’t report because then it makes them (the officer) a rat. We found that in the past,” Welch said.
As to the committee conducting an investigation into the Plamondon’s allegations and the treatment of transgender women in the men’s prison, Welch said, “Oh, absolutely. I won’t waste any time.”
He expected the investigation to begin by mid-March.
The transgender women are treated for gender dysphoria and according to the prison rules, hormonal replacement treatment and other medically necessary treatment are given after approval by the Gender Dysphoria Treatment Overview Committee.
“Reasonable accommodations will also be considered on a case-by-case basis to allow the inmate to live consistent with his or her gender identity in accordance with the applicable medical standards of care for treating gender,” according to department guidelines.
As to housing, the guidelines say: “In deciding whether to assign a transgender or intersex inmate to a facility for male or female inmates, and in making other housing and programming assignments, the NHDOC shall consider on a case-by-case basis whether a placement would ensure the inmate’s health and safety, and whether the placement would present management or security problems and document such reasoning in writing.”