Pennsylvania Department of Corrections
Attn: [John E. Wetzel, Secretary]
2520 Lisburn Road
P.O. Box 598
Camp Hill, PA 17001-0598
Hearts On a Wire Collective
P.O. Box 36831
Philadelphia, PA 19107
To Whom It May Concern:
We are writing to you to request a revision in the Department of Corrections' Policy 815 on Personal Property, State Issued Items, and Commissary/Outside Purchases. We believe that there should not be two separate lists of permitted items. Items allowed in women's facilities should also be permitted in men's facilities, and vice versa. We are asking that all language designating certain commissary items to be restricted to only one gender be removed from the policy.
Outside of correctional facilities, the criminal legal system holds all people, male or female, accountable to the same set of laws. Whether they are placed in a men's facility or a women's facility, people are being incarcerated for the same crimes. Hence, items that are deemed safe and permitted in women's facilities should present no security issues in men's facilities. Likewise, items that are deemed safe and permitted in men’s facilities should present no security issues in women’s facilities.
The policy currently designates numerous items as "females only," or "women's facilities only." Among these items are bras, greeting cards, earrings, and "nightgown or pajamas." Since these items are safe in women's facilities, there is no legitimate penological or security issue that should prevent people in men's facilities from accessing or purchasing these items.
The policy of assigning gender to commissary items discriminates against transgender and gender variant (T/GV) people. It prohibits people from obtaining necessary items and commits senseless violence and erasure of incarcerated T/GV communities. We ask that you consider the reasons for the current commissary policy and revise it to prevent this kind of discrimination.
As the legal structures protecting T/GV communities grow we seek to include our incarcerated community members in the broadening protections. Recently, the federal prison system amended its policies to provide transition-related medical treatment to incarcerated people diagnosed with Gender Identity Disorder. Outside of prisons, circuit courts and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission have made precedent-setting decisions to include gender identity among the protected categories under Title VII. As policies change throughout the country, we are seeking this small change in commissary lists with the intention of acknowledging and providing for incarcerated T/GV communities.
We, the undersigned, believe that a simple change to the commissary listing policy could actually make a difference in the lives of incarcerated T/GV people in Pennsylvania. In the interest of the safety of incarcerated people and in recognition of rapidly changing national law, policy, and attitudes, we are requesting the creation of a single commissary list which every incarcerated person may have equal access to, regardless of their sex or gender.