Local News

State moves transgender inmate to female prison

Posted August 15, 2019 10:54 a.m. EDT
Updated August 15, 2019 5:50 p.m. EDT

— The state Department of Public Safety on Thursday moved a transgender inmate from an all-male prison to a state facility that houses women.

Kanautica Zayre-Brown's move to Anson Correctional Institution in Polkton came after months of review by prison officials and under a threat of a lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union on Zayre-Brown's behalf.

Zayre-Brown, 37, began a series of surgeries in 2012 to transition to a woman. In October 2017, she was sentenced to nearly 10 years in prison for insurance fraud and other crimes.

In a February interview with WRAL News, she said she wasn't asking for special treatment, only to be housed in a prison that matches her gender.

"I am a female. I am going to be treated as a female. I want the state to recognize me as a female and treat me accordingly," she said.

The state still has her listed by her birth name, Kevin Chestnut, and as a male.

Until March, she was incarcerated at Harnett Correctional Institution in Lillington, where she slept in an open room with 37 men and shared a community shower and bathroom with them.

During their review of her case, prison officials moved her in March to Warren Correctional Institution, an all-male facility in Manson where she was housed in a single cell as opposed to an open dormitory.

Anson Correctional is a medium-security facility southeast of Charlotte that houses about 1,000 female inmates.

"I am just so happy and feel so much better," Zayre-Brown said in a statement. "I don’t feel like I’m in a monstrous cage anymore. I feel safe. I want to thank my community for their support and DPS for coming through with their promise. Now I can look forward to being able to receive the medical care I need."

Before the transfer, the staff and administrators at Anson Correctional went through extensive training on managing transgender inmates, officials said.

"The housing determination for any offender is based upon a variety of factors, including, but not limited to, the individual’s unique circumstances, safety considerations and other operational factors," DPS spokesman John Bull said in a statement. "The Division [of Adult Correction and Juvenile Justice] remains committed to the appropriate housing and management of all incarcerated offenders, consistent with ensuring public safety."