State moves transgender inmate to women's prison

RALEIGH, NC (WITN) - The state today moved a transgender inmate to a women's prison, months after a civil rights group threatened a lawsuit.

Kanautica Zayre-Brown, of Wilson, was transferred this morning to the Anson Correctional Institution in Polkton. Prison officials say this medium-security prison houses women and should not be confused with a men's prison next door.

The American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina said Zayre-Brown was being held illegally at the Harnett Correctional Institution, a men's prison in Lillington.

They say the Wilson County resident, who used to be known as Kevin Chestnut before his sex change operation, was in the men's prison for more than a year.

The 37-year-old woman is believed to be the state's only post-operative transgender prisoner.

The Department of Public safety says Zayre-Brown was moved "after careful review and consideration by prison officials".

Prior to the move, DPS said it provided focused training to administrators and staff at Zayre-Brown's new prison on the management of transgender inmates.


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A civil rights group says it will sue the state if a transgender inmate is not moved to a women's prison by April 1st.

The American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina says Kanautica Zayre-Brown is being held illegally at the Harnett Correctional Institution, a men's prison in Lillington.

They say the Wilson County resident, who used to be known as Kevin Chestnut before his sex change operation, has been in the men's prison for more than a year.

The 37-year-old woman is believed to be the state's only post-operative transgender prisoner. The state still recognizes her as a man and by her birth name, which was legally changed.

The ACLU says the woman's continued incarceration in a men's prison is in violation of federal law. "The Department of Public Safety has a constitutional obligation to protect people in their custody from harm. The current situation is not only illegal but it is untenable for Ms. Zayre-Brown as she is experiencing escalating distress regarding her safety as a woman in an all-male prison," said Sneha Shah, staff attorney for the ACLU.

The ACLU says since Zayre-Brown's story became public, she was moved into solitary confinement at the prison.

The state Department of Public Safety adopted a policy last year entitling transgender inmates to possible services including gender-appropriate housing.

DPS said it just received the letter from the ACLU this morning and is reviewing it.