VA Prison Allegedly Segregated Women on Basis of Sexual Orientation
Virginia's largest women's correctional facility allegedly segregated inmates on the basis of actual or assumed sexual orientation over the past year. Women presumed to be gay were housed in a separate wing, 5D, referred to as the "little boys wing" or "butch wing" by guards at Fluvanna Correctional Women's Facility, reported the Advocate. The inmates housed in wing 5D were allegedly placed there because they were assumed to be lesbians or who were classified as "butch" based on clothing, hair, and/or demeanor.
Statements from two current guards and a former guard, William Drumheller, who spoke to the Associated Press, indicate that the separation of inmates occurred to halt sexual activity in the prison. Drumheller said he overheard a manager say, "We're going to break up some of these relationships, start a boys wing, and we're going to take all these studs and put them together and see how they like looking at nothing but each other all day instead of their girlfriends." Although the three guards have confirmed accusations of segregation based on physicality, Warden Barbara Wheeler denied any segregation on the basis of sexual orientation or appearance. Since the allegations surfaced, the practice of separating inmates to facility 5D ceased.
Trina O'Neal, one of the first inmates sent to 5D, wrote to the Associated Press: "I have been gay all my life and never have I once felt as degraded, humiliated or questioned my own sexuality, the way I look, etc., until all of this happened."
Media Resources: The Associated Press 6/11/09; pinknews 6/11/09; The Advocate 6/12/09