You would think that if corrections officers wanted to talk in graphic and violent terms about the people they get paid to watch and, theoretically, take care of every day, they would do so in private.
But apparently not.
After the Texas Observer published a story about a transgender inmate appealing a federal judge's dismissal of her lawsuit seeking gender confirmation surgery, people who self-identified on Facebook as working for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice posted the story in a group called Texas Correctional Employees – Huntsville and proceeded to make crude and violent comments about the inmate.
One Facebook user, named Dakota Hoffman, shared the story on his own page with the comment, "Let the fucker suffer." His Facebook buddy, Francois Jean-Baptiste, who identified on Facebook as a TDCJ corrections officer, commented, "One to the back of the head."
TDCJ spokesman Jason Clark told the Houston Press Thursday that Hoffman recently resigned in August, and Jean-Baptiste has been on unpaid leave since June for a reason Clark could not specify.
We were unable to see for ourselves, but the Observer reports that another woman, named Susan Johnson-Dias, commented, “give [Gibson] a state [sic] razor and a bandaid” so that Gibson can perform a “do it yourself sex change.” According to the Observer, Johnson-Dias's profile picture showed her in what appeared to be a corrections officer uniform, and the Texas Tribune lists a Susan Dias as a corrections officer on its database of government salaries. The comment appears to have been deleted. Clark said human resources is still looking into Johnson-Dias to see if she is a current employee.
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Clark said TDCJ does not have an employee social media policy per se, but does have one as it relates to off-the-job conduct. Asked whether these comments would violate that policy, Clark simply said, "The comments were not appropriate, and we’ve moved that information along for further review."
As we reported earlier this year, TDCJ updated its policy to allow transgender inmates to receive hormone therapy. But it has refused to offer gender confirmation surgery no matter what, a policy that various LGBT advocates and attorneys told us needs to be reversed.
Demoya Gordon — the Lambda Legal attorney for a transgender inmate who was abused by inmates and consistently jeered at by guards who did nothing to protect her — told us in the past that this behavior by corrections officers is commonplace.
“There is a culture of condoning and not taking seriously sexual assault and harassment [among transgender inmates],” she said. “They get these complaints and say it ‘wasn’t substantiated.’ We would like to see a systemic change across the board.”