September 18, 2013 at 2:00 pm EDT | by Steve Charing
Film explores lives of trans inmates
Cruel and Unusual, Outcast Films, transgender, gay news, Washington Blade

‘Cruel and Unusual’ visits six prisons to interview trans inmates. (Image courtesy Outcast Films)

A screening of the documentary “Cruel and Unusual” will take place on Oct. 1 at 7 p.m. at Space 2640, 2640 St. Paul St. in Baltimore.

The 2006 film, directed and produced by Janet Baus, Dan Hunt and Reid Williams, follows five transgender women incarcerated in men’s prisons across the U.S. from Wyoming to New Jersey and Florida. Denied medical and psychological treatment, victims of rape and violence, the documentary “Cruel and Unusual” asks if the punishment for their crime is indeed cruel and unusual.

The film took three years to make. The directors initially made contact with approximately 100 transgender prisoners. Although they had planned to feature trans men in the film, they decided to focus only on trans women due to the different issues experienced by the two groups and the complex nature of the issues they face in prison. To this end, they interviewed trans women in six different prisons.

According to the film, transgender people are more likely than average to be imprisoned, and when in prison often face sexual violence from other prisoners. Often transgender prisoners are kept in solitary confinement to protect them from other inmates. The filmmakers set out to ask whether this situation constitutes cruel and unusual punishment and violates prisoners’ Eighth Amendment rights

After the presentation, there will be a short panel discussion on how the issues addressed in the film affect Marylanders. The screening is a sliding scale donation of $5-$10.  Pay $15 and get a free DVD copy of the film. No one will be turned away for lack of funds.

“We think it’s a really important documentary for the entire community of Baltimore to see, not just LGBTQ folks, so we can connect all of our struggles for equal rights, equal opportunities, and freedom from gender- and race-based violence,” Shawna Potter, executive site manager for Hollaback Bmore, told the Blade. “We hope that the panel discussion that follows, as well as the information and resource tables, will help folks find a way to get involved after learning about the issues raised in the film.”

Hollaback Bmore is part of an international movement consisting of a network of activists to end street harassment.  For more information, visit The event is co-sponsored by the Transgender Response Team.

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