Cruel and Unusual

DATE & TIME: 10:00am - 11:30am EDT May 1, 2014
  • Dan Hunt
    Dan Hunt
    Melanie Einzig
a Conversation on Diversity about trans issues in prisons

Join faculty member Dan Hunt and Alisha Williams, Staff Attorney for the Sylvia Rivera Law Project, for a provocative screening and discussion about the gender binary, prisons, criminal justice, and social justice filmmaking. The discussion will be centered around Hunt’s award winning documentary Cruel and Unusual, which is an in depth look at the lives of transgender women who are incarcerated in men’s prisons in the United States.  

Most states separate prisoners by genitalia alone, so pre-op, transgender women are placed in men’s correctional facilities, where they find themselves vulnerable and preyed upon. CRUEL AND UNUSUAL is a frank, often unsettling documentary, that portrays the challenges faced by these women. Ophelia, beautiful and bold, cuts herself when left alone in solitary confinement for an entire year. Yolanda, 21, has taken hormones since age 12; after surviving a childhood of poverty and drugs. Rough and tough Linda, performs her own correctional surgery when the Idaho Correctional Facilities deny her request for drug therapy. Anna loses not only four years of hormone treatment but also custody of her only son when she is sent to prison for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. 

The women’s stories are interwoven with commentary by lawyers and prison custodians who discuss the problems transgender inmates face; chief among them is the authorities’ complete refusal to recognize Gender Identity Disorder as a legitimate medical condition.  Eye-opening and caustic in its depiction of the blatant discrimination transgender people endure, this documentary will leave you with much to think about. 

Dan Hunt is Assistant Professor of Communication Arts. Hunt brings over 20 years of award winning documentary experience as a producer and director whose work focuses on topics as broad as gender and sexuality, prison reform, and environmental sustainability.  His work has broadcast on PBS, ABC, Documentary Channel, Logo, and WEtv and screened at film festivals all over the world.  His work has been funded by the MacArthur Foundation, Viacom, Robeson Fund, Phillips Foundation, Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Subaru, CitiBank, Soros Foundation, and the NEH. 

Alisha Williams is a Staff Attorney with the Sylvia Rivera Law Project, and the Director of SRLP’s Prisoner Justice Project. Alisha is a former SRLP legal intern and long time Collective Member. After graduating from Cardozo Law School, Alisha moved to Philadelphia where she remained committed to performing prisoner justice work and community organizing before returning to NYC to join the SRLP staff.


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