Award-winning Investigative Journalist Robert Parry (1949-2018)

Award-winning investigative journalist and founder/editor of, Robert Parry has passed away. His ground-breaking work uncovering Reagan-era dirty wars in Central America and many other illegal and immoral policies conducted by successive administrations and U.S. intelligence agencies, stands as an inspiration to all in journalists working in the public interest.

Robert had been a regular guest on our Between The Lines and Counterpoint radio shows -- and many other progressive outlets across the U.S. over four decades.

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Activists Decry Treatment of Transgender Teenager held in Solitary Confinement in a Connecticut Prison

Posted April 30, 2014

MP3 JeriMarie Liesegang, founder of the Connecticut Trans Advocacy Coalition reads an op-ed piece written by an imprisoned transgendered 16-year-old, and talks about how the non-trans community can best support transgender youth, in this segment recorded and produced by Between The Lines’ Melinda Tuhus


A 16-year-old transgender girl – that is, a person who was born biologically male but identifies as female – has been held in solitary confinement at York Correctional Institution, the Connecticut state women's prison, since April 8. The girl, known as Jane Doe, remains in prison although no criminal charges have been brought against her, much less has she been convicted of any crime.

The decision to place Jane Doe in an adult – first considering and then rejecting a youth prison for males and a new juvenile facility for girls – came from Joette Katz, the Commissioner of the Department of Children and Families. Commissioner Katz said the girl is violent and there is no more appropriate and available setting for her at this time. Last week, the Hartford Courant newspaper published an op-ed written by Jane Doe, in which she alludes to past traumas as she describes the trauma of her current imprisonment.

On April 25, about 50 supporters of Jane Doe held a rally outside the Department of Children and Families office in Hartford. At the same time another support rally was also organized in New York City. At the Hartford rally, JeriMarie Liesegang, the founder of the Connecticut Trans Advocacy Coalition, read Jane Doe’s op-ed piece aloud, then commented about how the non-trans community can best support individuals like Jane Doe and others who identify as transgender, whether they are in prison or living in society at large.

JERIMARIE LIESEGANG: (Liesegang reading from Jane Doe's op-ed in Hartford Courant) A lot of things have been said about me recently. Some were said in court, others were said in the news and by the Commissioner of the Department of Families and Children (DCF) Joette Katz. People might think they know me based upon what they hear, but they know nothing about who I am. I've been involved with DCF since I was a little kid. There were lots of problems with my family, and DCF got involved to help me. Over the years, I've had many DCF workers; some really tried to help me; others did it for the paycheck. I admit that I have acted out and got into fights; many DCF kids get into fights. Many DCF kids fight with staff and other kids. I'm not saying it was okay, but I have a lot of stuff built up inside me and don't know how to deal with it at times. They tell me that trauma changes people and makes them act out; believe me, it does. Although my life has been harder than almost anyone can imagine, the last few months have been the worst. I haven't agreed with everything DCF has done, but I thought they were supposed to be on my side. That changed after what happened in Massachusetts. Forget what DCF said; I didn't blind anyone or break their jaw. DCF said a lot of things to make me look like a monster. Just think about how you would look if your worst enemy wrote down every bad thing you ever did and on top of that made things up.

I sat in court for six days freaking out that I was going to a men's prison. The only person from DCF who was against me in court was the superintendent of the Juvenile Training School [for boys]. He said I was the most dangerous person who had ever been at the school, he had never met me before, and he asked that I go to Manson Youth Institute [for males]. While I was at the school, I was perfectly behaved. He said that didn't matter. Commander Katz wouldn't come to court to explain why she said untrue things about me. She showed up on the last day and wouldn't even look at me. The other people from DCF who came to court said really nice things about me. One training school worker visited me when she wasn't working; I really miss her.

Now, I am sitting in a room at the end of a hallway in the psych ward at York Correctional Institution. I'm in my room 22 hours a day with a guard staring at me, even when I shower and go to the bathroom. Women constantly scream and cry and it was hard to sleep. They moved me down to a different hallway where it's not as crazy. I tell myself that this is just a nightmare, but it doesn't end. I know I need to work on my issues, and I want to, but this is not the place. I am afraid of the women here. I don't want to be around them. They yell comments to me make fun of me when they see me. People tell me that a lot of the news stories focus on DCF. I don't want this to be about them. I don't care about people who don't care about me. DCF is wrong for what they have done to me, but making them look bad is not going to help me. I want people to understand who I am, what my life has been like, and how I ended up here.

What I have survived would have destroyed most people. I'm not going to let it destroy me. I can't change what has happened, but I can build a future, just like every other 16-year-old.

If Cmdr. Katz wants to know who I am, she should come to this prison and meet me. If she does, she will see that I am more than what is written on paper. I am a girl with a lot going on in her life. We all make mistakes, but I don't deserve this.

As a footnote, Jane Doe is a pseudonym for a 16-year-old who was male at birth but who identifies as female. She is in custody of the state and her name is withheld because of her age.

(Liesegang speaking herself) We've done a lot of advocacy for trans women, especially in the Hartford area, and trans folks. But what you see here is not different. People need to sort of step in the shoes of trans people. Even the allies ... we appreciate it, but you really have to understand what it's like. And this is a girl who's been through the system, and we've had other folks. What happens is, you're basically struggling and fighting every single day of your life just to be who you are. Like myself, any of us, we're forever being hassled, so you can just imagine this poor girl coming through the system as a transgender, transitioning very young and trying to survive through all these foster care houses where people most likely don't care about her. And so she really has been victimized her whole life. And the key thing is for the system to recognize, as she said, the PTSD, the trauma, that she's going through. And we don't answer that or correct that by putting someone in the prison system. And we run into this with trans folks, and usually it's trans folks of color. We deal a lot with trans women of color, who have been through the system because there's no one there to advocate for them. We had one woman, she was basically being put on the street by a pimp. She finally fought back, beat him up, and then she got put into prison – she got put into the male population of prison. And we finally advocated for her – this was many years ago – when she was coming out, we made the case that it was a case of domestic violence. If she comes back out of prison, there's no one to advocate for her, she was living in a homeless shelter, and she's going to be put back out on the street with no way to defend herself, and if she does defend herself, she's going to be put back in prison. And what we did, we got her into a domestic violence shelter and she was actually one of the first trans folks to get into a women's domestic violence shelter in Connecticut. And it worked out. There weren't any issues; people were worried there would be issues, and the key thing is that's what you do, when you put women together that are dealing with trauma in a women's shelter and things like that, that's your job as an advocate is to work through that. And it actually worked out very well. She finally moved to California and really got back with her life. And this is the same thing that needs to be done with Jane. And that's why Trans Advocacy was there, but it's more than an organization; it's the people. An organization as big as DCF can't get that personal, and that's unfortunate.

Find more news and commentary on Jane Doe’s imprisonment by visiting Connecticut Trans Advocacy Coalition's website at

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