The North Carolina Department of Public Safety announced Friday that it plans to transfer a transgender inmate to a women’s prison by Aug. 22.
Kanautica Zayre-Brown, 37, began a series of surgeries in 2012 to transition to a woman. In October 2017, she was sentenced to nearly 10 years in prison for insurance fraud and other crimes.
Zayre-Brown was initially housed at Harnett Correctional Institution in Lillington, where she slept in an open room with 37 men and shared a community shower and bathroom with them.
After she requested to be moved to a women’s prison, DPS moved her in March to Warren Correctional Institution in Manson, where she has been housed in a single cell as opposed to an open dormitory, according to DPS spokesman John Bull.
In a February interview with WRAL News, she said she wasn't asking for special treatment, only to be housed in a prison that matches her gender.
"I am a female. I am going to be treated as a female. I want the state to recognize me as a female and treat me accordingly," she said.
The state still has her listed by her birth name, Kevin Chestnut, and as a male.
According to DPS, preparations continue for her transfer to a women’s prison within the next three months.
“I feel good that there is a plan in place, but I will feel much better when my transfer is finalized,” Zayre-Brown said in a statement. “My mental health is still depleting, and I would have broken a long time ago if it weren’t for the community behind me. They give me the strength to keep going.”
The ACLU of North Carolina is representing Zayre-Brown.
“We are relieved that there is a date by which Ms. Zayre-Brown will be transferred to a prison for women, but this isn’t over,” Chase Strangio, staff attorney with the ACLU, said in a statement. “Each day that Kanautica is held in a men’s facility is a day that her constitutional rights are violated and her health compromised. We will stay vigilant until she is transferred and then for the rest of her sentence until she is released. So many trans women across the country—particularly black trans women—are funneled into the criminal legal system where they face severe risk of harm once incarcerated. Our community is under attack, and we are working to minimize that violence.”
Serena Sebring, with Southerners On New Ground, said the move is not enough.
"We don’t think this is a win win this is one step in the right direction with a commitment to transfer her to an appropriate facility, 90 days is too far to wait for safety,” she said.