Trans Woman Inmate in North Carolina Forced to Stay in Men’s Prison

"I just want fairness," says Kanautica Zayre-Brown, who's behind bars in a dorm with 38 men.

Authorities in North Carolina have once again refused a trans woman inmate’s request to be transferred to a women’s detention center.

Kanautica Zayre-Brown, 37, was convicted of insurance fraud and obtaining property under false pretenses back in 2017, reports The News and Observer. She’s since confessed to her crimes, expressed regret, and was sentenced to a stay at Harnett Correctional, a men’s correctional facility in Lillington.

Despite repeated requests to be moved to a women’s prison, Zayre-Brown remains at Harnett Correctional, where she says she fears for her safety.

“I understand I’m in prison,” Zayre-Brown told The News and Observer in a visitation room last Tuesday. “I just want fairness.”

Currently, Zayre-Brown sleeps on a bunk in a dorm with 38 men. She says she gets harassed by other inmates daily, especially since she’s undergone gender-confirming surgeries and has identified and presented as a woman for years. She’s forced to shower and get dressed in front of dozens of men every day.

Her husband, Dionne Brown, says he visits her once a week and calls every day. “I don’t feel comfortable with her being with a bunch of men like that under that type of pressure,” he told The News and Observer. “I married her and she’s considered herself a female the entire time… I don’t feel safe for her. She doesn’t feel safe.”

Sara D. Davis/Getty Images

Zayre-Brown’s story comes to light months after North Carolina lawmakers voted anti-LGBTQ legislation into law—like House Bill 142, which includes a provision preventing cities and municipalities from passing nondiscrimination ordinances for LGBTQ people. (HB142 replaced the infamous HB2 “bathroom bill,” which barred trans people from using restrooms and other public facilities that match their gender identity.)

According to The Charlotte Observer, North Carolina’s Department of Public Safety approved a policy in 2018 ensuring incarcerated trans people the right to stay at a prison that aligns with their gender identity. Jerry Higgins, a spokesperson for the department, says Zayre-Brown’s case is under review.

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