Cyr bill makes initial step to protect LGBTQ prisoners, in committee testimony


October 16, 2019
WickedLocal Provincetown
Colin A. Young / State House News Service

BOSTON — While incarcerated in Massachusetts, Michael Cox was sent to solitary confinement for a month and a half after he, an openly gay man, reported an act of sexual violence against him to prison officials.

Cox later did more time in solitary after he and another gay inmate hugged each other goodbye when leaving the prison yard, he told lawmakers Oct. 8. Cox, now the director of policy for the Boston chapter of Black and Pink, and other advocates described their belief that LGBTQ prisoners are sent to solitary confinement — or restrictive housing as it is sometimes known — far more frequently than heterosexual inmates are.

“Within the prison system there are several clear pathways for an LGBT person to end up in solitary confinement,” Cox, who served a six-year sentence, told the Judiciary Committee. “I reported an act of sexual violence and I spent 45 days in solitary confinement. This is both a deterrent to report future acts of violence against me and it has a chilling effect on all other queer people.”

Cox was not advocating to end the use of solitary confinement, but rather for the state to start collecting data on LGBT prisoners and the use of solitary confinement as punishment for LGBT prisoners in Massachusetts. The Joint Committee on the Judiciary took testimony on a bill filed by Sen. Julian Cyr, D-Truro, which would require state and correctional officials to collect voluntarily-disclosed data about sexual orientation, gender identity and assignments to restrictive housing. Rep. Dylan Fernandes, D-Woods Hole, supports the bill as well.

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