Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Disabled Prison Bodies by Ruth Utnage

As a trans prisoner I am hit with two labels that lead to psychological pathologization, or disability status, they are Gender Dysphoric (trans) and PTSD (prisoner). In the scope of the prisoner experience I am relegated time and again to a lower social status because of my "psychological" deficiencies and even in the social construct of prisoner to prisoner interactions there is a flavor of disability detection to determine ones value. Not only in prison but out of prison as well.

In many states there is protections in place to protect recently released prisoners from workplace discrimination, just like others with "disabilities". While we cannot look in the DSM-V and see the psychological title of "Prisoner" there is a plethora of disability labels that can be applied to those who have committed crimes ranging from Sociopathic to Cleptomaniacal. When we look at Washington States offender classification system, Washington One, we see that it also understands offenders as naturally deficient making Classification Counselors responsible for rooting for information that determines that via "Risk Factors".

Risk Factors are determined via algorithmic calculations that consider both static and dynamic factorizations. In my case, when it first came out it determined Education was one of my highest Risk Factors. At the time I had already graduated my college courses with an ATA degree as Phi Theta Kappa and a well-earned 4.0 GPA and was beginning a computer programming course where I was learning JavaScript and React. I came to prison with my GED and went on to not only get my Associates degree but also my High School Diploma and a Computer Programming certification in addition to many others. Yet, according to this system, I am stupid, enough so that its a problem. Here is the problem with that, because risk factors are supposed to be dynamic it must make a way for one to achieve a status of health in that area, which it eventually did but that was due to no more programs available for me to take and when Education was removed as a risk factor a new one emerged, Social Group. Now that I'm not intellectually disabled now I am socially disabled, suddenly.

This is the problem with system that are only designed to seek flaws as results. Any positive factors received are synthesized through a lens of "what's wrong with you" which forces a constant state of disability and lower social manifestations. This also forces prisoners to view themselves through a psychological lens and by virtue, socially othered. This chronic abnormalization via a system of power and control produces its own social class of mentally deficiency and then offers "protections" in the name of antidiscrimination and "reform".

I've not been one to pick up the antipsychiatry torch and carry that into my work but now I must at least reconcile it within myself or risk succumbing to biased and miscalculated psychological pathologization administered by a flawed algorithm with data input by someone who is not a psychiatrist or psychology professional. When I finally escape the chokehold of institutional pathologization I then fall back on Gender Dysphoric pathologization that also classifies me as disabled. Kind of like finding refuge from the fire inside the frying pan. Now if I want to feel normal I must do so through admitting I am abnormal and gender deviant at best. Now I'm just tired.

The attraction for this topic is not so much about community awareness or putting out some actionable for someone else, such as yourself, to ponder as it is to understand for myself what exactly it is I'm up against. When I'm solving problems for myself what hills am I choosing to "die" on and how long has that battle raged on? I came to prison with the goal of surviving and I'm finding myself at the intersection of disability rights, social justice, and the pathologization of social inequities.

Welcome home...

With Love
Ruth Utnage
(For interviews or media inquiries please contact me directly!)


Ruth Utnage fka jeff 823469 C-510-2
MCC-TRU
PO Box 888
Monroe, WA. 98272

or via Jpay email service (you have to use my birth name, but, please do not call me by it, my new legal name is Ruth)

Jeff Utnage
823469



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