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Heather Mason is quite a remarkable woman. She’s a survivor of fentanyl addiction, an activist, and a founding member of caWsbar, an organization that works to preserve the rights and protections of women and girls.
And she’s accomplished all of this despite having spent time in federal prison. In fact, Heather is using her experience as a former prisoner to shed light on a very dangerous issue sweeping across the United States and Canada – the fact that biological men are being transferred to women’s prisons.
While Heather was in prison, she experienced firsthand the realities of trans women (biological men) in female spaces.
The first thing she notes is that all the men in the women’s prison system “had sex crimes” specifically on their records.
“They were hiding from the men because they wouldn't be safe on the men's range, because people who have crimes against women and children are not safe on men's ranges,” Heather tells Allie Beth Stuckey.
Luckily these biological men were still kept separate from the female prisoners, but this was back in 2015.
However, once gender identity was added to the Canadian Human Rights Act in 2017, that all changed.
“When I was transferred to prison in 2017 … there were men there,” Heather explains, “and then more and more were transferring in, and then when I was in the halfway house … there was a man living there.”
Then in June 2019, Heather won a scholarship to attend a conference in Ottawa, but little did she know that horrors awaited her there.
Heather explains that when she was at the conference, “they passed their inclusion policy, and a woman [she] knew from prison had gotten up and stated how she was groomed and sexually harassed by a prolific serial pedophile,” who was a man identifying as a woman.
But the response to the victim’s abuse was perhaps even more tragic. She was met with statements such as, “You don’t need a vagina to be a woman” and “I don’t like the transphobia.”
“They didn’t support her,” says Heather, “and they dismissed her.”
The people running the inclusion organizations “did not support us at all” and “did not listen to us,” Heather laments.
Many of the female prisoners, as well as the female staff at the jails, did not support the new inclusion policy.
The majority of the workers ended up leaving, “and now pretty much all the women that work there are in support of trans women in women's prisons and halfway houses,” Heather explains.
“You don't need surgery, you don't need hormones, you don't even need to dress like a woman; you just need to say you feel like one” in order for a man to be transferred to a women’s prison, even if that man has a slew of violent sexual charges on his record.
The results of this decision have been beyond devastating.
Heather explains that women’s prisons are designed differently than men’s. “There's no cameras in our houses, and the guards only come through once every two hours to check on us, so there's a lot of freedom and a lot of ways to get away with things,” and unfortunately, “these men are not put in segregation; they live in these houses with us,” she tells Allie.
What’s the result of this?
“There have been sexual assaults, there's been grooming, there's been sexual harassment, there's been physical fights, criminal harassment,” and despite all this, often “police have declined to press charges,” she explains.
She remembers one time when a trans woman sexually assaulted a female prisoner in the bathroom. Infuriated, the other women rallied and locked the assailant out of the house, but the guards threatened to document “bullying” in their paperwork, which would deny them parole, if they didn’t allow the attacker to re-enter the common home.
Another woman was able to get her assailant charged, but the courts “gave him a plea deal” that allowed him to “drop the sexual assault charge” in exchange for a “criminal harassment” charge.
Perhaps most upsetting is what’s happening in the prison homes designed for mothers and their young children.
“We have a mother-child program, so our children four years and younger can live with us full-time,” Heather explains, but many of the trans women, especially those with rape charges, “will stand outside the mother-child house and antagonize the women and stare at their babies, and there's nothing the women can do.”
One woman confronted a trans woman (who was in prison for brutally raping an infant) and called him a pedophile. The man “threw her” and “beat her pretty bad,” but “the guards wouldn't do anything about it because she called him a pedophile,” Heather tells Allie.
“The moms can't do anything or they're at risk of having their child removed and sent to live with their family outside of prison, so they just stay quiet about it,” she says.
“I don't understand how this isn't the top story that everyone is talking about right now,” says Allie in shock.
To hear more about Heather’s story and the amazing work she’s doing though her organization, watch the video below.
Want more from Allie Beth Stuckey?
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