Transgender inmate Sandy Brown spent over two months in solitary confinement at a Maryland detention center while staff deliberated whether she was a male or female. Not only was she was kept away from other inmates, she was taunted by prison staff.

Patuxent employees constantly teased and harassed Sandy. Sergeant Dawn Halsey referred to Sandy as “it,” and told her she was not a real woman, and that she should kill herself.

The Patuxent Institution is a place where inmates go for mental health evaluations; these evaluations normally take about 30 days. However, Sandy was in solitary confinement there for 66 days until she filed a complaint.

“They didn’t see me for the human being I am; they treated me like a circus act. I understand how animals at the zoo feel now. They gawked, pointed, made fun of me, and tried to break my spirit. These were people I’d never met, people I’d never done anything to,” said Brown.

Correctional officers threatened, name-called, and laughed at Sandy while she sat in her cell. On at least one occasion, officers pulled back her shower curtain and watched her shower.

The abuse Sandy endured completely violated the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA). And Judge Denise Oakes Shaffer agrees. Shaffer ruled that the prison “failed to train all employees in how to effectively and professionally communicate with transgender inmates.” Judge Shaffer also ordered that Patuxent enforce mandatory training that complies with the PREA policies. This training includes the appropriate interaction between correctional officers and transgender inmates, strip search procedures, and housing determinations for transgender inmates.

Sandy’s case was the first successful prosecution for a trans inmate filing suit under PREA.

The majority of Patuxent’s witnesses testified that they never had any training on how to work with transgender inmates.

It’s unfortunate that people still need to be trained on how to treat people; however, this win proves humanity is headed in the right direction.

“To the other transgender and intersex women behind bars, don’t give up,there is hope out there for us,” assured Brown.