One Equal World

CeCe McDonald Released Early from Men’s Prison

Posted on: January 14, 2014

Earlier this week, news broke about African American transgender woman CeCe Mcdonald’s early release from a Minnesota men’s prison. Reportedly, the young woman was released from the St. Cloud Correctional Facility at around 8:30 a.m. on Monday, January 13th, after 19 months of incarceration.

A little bit of background on the case: CeCe McDonald was originally sentenced to 41 months in a men’s prison facility in the spring of 2012, after pleading guilty to charges of second-degree manslaughter. The charges brought against her were a result of McDonald trying to defend herself against Dean Schmitz, a man who allegedly accosted her and a group of friends late one evening in 2011. The altercation involved Schmitz aggressively slinging racial and transphobic slurs at McDonald, which escalated to a physical assault, and ultimately, the fatal stabbing of Schmitz by McDonald.

Laverne Cox

Transgender producer and actress Laverne Cox greeted CeCe McDonald when she was released early from prison this month.
Image: lev radin / Shutterstock.com

Schmitz’s death was believed by many to be the result of McDonald employing self-defense during the confrontation, and she was originally charged with second-degree murder before the charges were reduced to manslaughter. Trans advocates nationwide were enraged upon learning that McDonald was not only found guilty, but would be sentenced to more three years in a men’s prison, a notoriously dangerous environment for transgender women.

McDonald’s case rapidly gained national attention, due in part to high profile transgender advocates such as Laverne Cox speaking out against the systematic transphobia embedded in her sentencing. Cox, star of the hit Netflix series Orange is the New Black, has openly discussed the mistreatment of transgender individuals in prison environments, and has even begun creating a documentary about CeCe McDonald. The transgender actress and producer was there on January 13th to greet McDonald as she was released from prison.

Both the charges against and subsequent sentencing of CeCe McDonald illustrate the ways in which transgender women, and transgender women of color in particular, are mistreated in our society. McDonald’s self-defense against a flagrant act of hate resulted in her incarceration in a men’s prison, sending a message to all transgender people that the American justice system does not acknowledge their gender identities, and will not protect them. This controversial and saddening case has one silver lining: that CeCe McDonald did not have to endure the length of her sentencing in a men’s prison, and that she was greeted by friends, family, and thousands of allies upon her release.

Learn more about CeCe McDonald and Free CeCe here.

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