The Limits of Transgender Incarceration Reform

Lihi Yona, Ido Katri

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This Article explores the incarceration conditions of trans and gender-nonconforming (TGNC) people in Israel. The lived experience of TGNC people reflects the inherent incoherence of sex/gender and of the carceral system, two regimes of violence that derive power from their promise to provide stability and certitude to society. To uncover the practical meaning of these theoretical positions, the Article examines the Israel Prison Service (IPS) at a unique juncture: before and after an attempt to reform its policies regarding TGNC prisoners. An analysis of these reforms against the backdrop of the previous policy illustrates the carceral system’s inability to meaningfully transform the treatment of TGNC prisoners. To demonstrate this systemic failure, the Article centers the voices of two incarcerated trans women: Dorin and Lena. Both women have lived in male and female facilities before and after the reform. Their demands for safe and dignified treatment have reshaped IPS practices. Following Dorin and Lena’s stories, this Article argues that the IPS’s inability to properly accommodate TGNC prisoners is rooted in the logic of carceral systems themselves, which relies upon gender segregation and isolation as means for protection and rehabilitation. This examination reveals the futility of attempts to define who are and are not “real” men and women. And, by examining the IPS’s limited ability to reform its use of administrative segregation for TGNC prisoners, the theoretical inconsistencies and perniciousness of incarceration itself is exposed. Attempts to distinguish coherently between criminals and noncriminals, women and men, and trans and cis people, and to spatially segregate them according to such classifications, contradicts the heterogeneity and intersectionality of lived experiences and obscures the systemic use of institutional violence to hold these categories in place. Gender nonconformity is situated in this Article as a thread that, when pulled, unravels the carceral regime as a whole.
Original languageEnglish
JournalYale Journal of Law and Feminism
Issue number1
StatePublished - 6 May 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Transgender
  • Prison
  • Law Reform
  • Gender
  • Criminal Law
  • Civil Rights


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