A family in Florida is demanding answers about why a transgender woman doing time in a men’s prison was found dead in her solitary cell earlier this month. At the time of her death, the woman, Stacy Lorraine Naber, was fighting the Florida Department of Corrections (FDC) to legally change her name from the one she was born with: Justin Lee Naber.
Naber was found dead at the Dade Correctional Institution on August 6, in an administrative unit that was supposed to keep her safe. Authorities remain tight-lipped about how Naber died, but relatives report that she committed suicide by hanging. And now they want know how she was able to kill herself.
“He was in protective custody, and yet he managed to hang himself,” Naber’s aunt, Lee Kahn, said.
Naber, who was serving a life sentence for stabbing her roommate, was transferred to the Dade facility after doing time at the Okeechobee Correctional Institution. Prior to her transfer, Naber filed a complaint with a federal judge to force the FDC’s hand and permit her to change her name.
“Inmate Naber experiences severe mental anguish as inmate Naber is prohibited by law [from changing] his/her name to Stacy Lorraine Naber,” the complaint stated.
Before Naber died, Corrections Secretary Julie L. Jones argued that prison security depends on people keeping the names they had upon entry. But the ACLU’s Florida branch took up Naber’s case in March, after which her attorneys argued that the legal name change was “medically necessary” and amended her initial complaint.
She “is serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole, her rights will never be restored, and thus she can never obtain a legal name change or be recognized by the name that accords with her gender identity for the remainder of her life,” the updated complaint said. “Though for a non-transgender person the adoption of a new name might be a matter of preference, for transgender people, a change of name is a form of medical treatment.”
The lawsuit was ultimately dropped after Naber’s legal team learned of her death, but on Monday, Florida’s ACLU doubled down on its commitment to helping trans women behind bars. In a new lawsuit in federal court, the civil liberties organization argued that imprisoned trans women are routinely denied medically necessary treatment, including hormone therapy.
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement is currently investigating Naber’s death, according to FDC spokeswoman Michelle Glady.
Today, 20 percent of trans women wind up behind bars, and they are frequently forced into solitary confinement. Although guards and administrators argue that separate confinement serves as protection from male inmates, the reality is that trans women are viewed as a burden to the system and a threat to prison operations. Prisons also prevent trans women from receiving medical treatment related to their gender identity, such as hormone therapy, and deny access to women’s clothing and hygiene products.
Altogether, their experiences behind bars increases the likelihood that trans women will attempt self-harm.