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1st transgender cellblock almost ready

A 'brilliant' idea, activists say

27 January, 16:36
1st transgender cellblock almost ready (ANSA) - Empoli, January 27 - Italy's first cellblock exclusively for transgender inmates will be ready in a matter of days and the transfer of prisoners there should begin by the end of March, the head of Tuscany's prisons department said on Wednesday.

The cellblock at the Pozzale penitentiary here was previously a low-security facility for women and Maria Pia Giuffrida said "we had to modernise the plumbing and electrical system as well as boost security measures".

She said she recently illustrated the project to the some 30 inmates who will be sent to the new facility, who are currently together in a cellblock at the Sollicciano prison in Florence, "and they all seemed happy with the idea".

Because of the particular nature of the inmates, Giuffrida said guards, both men and women, would get special training.

Creating a separate cellblock for transgender inmates is a ''brilliant idea'' which will end their isolation, according to the head of Italy's national transgender movement (MIT). The cellblock, Regina Satariano observed, ''will not be a ghetto but an opportunity for these people and motivate them to follow programs aimed at integrating them into society once they have served their sentences''. ''This initiative offers great possibilities. Things could not continue the way they were before, with transgenders being kept in permanent isolation,'' Satariano added. ''Women inmates don't want them and, to avoid problems, transgenders are kept away from male prisoners. Thus special areas have been created in prisons, amounting to isolated confinement,'' the MIT chief said. 'AN ACT OF CIVILITY', GAY ACTIVIST MP SAYS. According to former MP and transgender activist Vladimir Luxuria, the creation of a separate cellblock for transgenders, among the first in the world, ''is a good thing which gives the inmates dignity''.

''As an MP I visited many penitentiaries and in every one, with the exception of the one in Belluno, transgenders were discriminated against and punished not only for the crimes they committed but also their sexual identity''. Gay activist Paola Concia, an MP for the opposition Democratic Party (PD), said the Tuscan initiative ''is an act of civility towards transgenders, who often have great problems in prison''. ''It would have been wrong if this was an attempt to place them in a ghetto. But I think the aim is to protect them and should the initiative prove successful it should be copied in many other prisons,'' she added. The number of transgender inmates currently in Italian prisons is believed to be in the neighborhood of 60. At the Pozzale prison the transgender inmates will have access to a garden and a library. Most of the inmates are serving sentences for prostitution or drug-related convictions.

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