Trans-gender inmate claims abuse

Posted: Sunday, October 08, 2000

A Lemon Creek Correctional Center inmate serving time for robbery alleges she is suffering indignities and prejudice because prison authorities won't acknowledge her changed -- or changing -- gender.

Carol Dwyer, 41, also known as C.J. Polonsky, says she is a chromosomal hermaphrodite who needs better treatment as well as medication prison officials won't provide.

"This institution has gone out of its way to make it difficult on me," Dwyer-Polonsky said.

When asked about Dwyer-Polonsky, Lemon Creek Superintendent Dan Carothers said, "Who? Who?"

"I am not going to be part of any conversation that calls Mr. Polonsky 'she.' That's playing a game and I will not be party to it," Carothers said.

Dwyer-Polonsky wants a transfer to an Arizona prison knowledgeable about transvestites and pre-surgery transsexuals, where she says officials understand genitalia does not necessarily indicate gender. She claims Lemon Creek officials put her in an unpleasant situation.

"They've put me in a mod (prison dormitory) for younger persons -- the worst possible place," she said. To express their opinion of her, Dwyer-Polonsky's fellow inmates waited until she was in the gym, then urinated and defecated on her laundry, she said.

"When I told the guards, they did nothing; so the next morning, I requested a move to the medical dorm," she said. However, the isolation of the medical dorm means she lacks for "human company."

"This is a small-town jail. The prisoners are small-town people," said Dwyer-Polonsky. "I would feel more comfortable in Seward or Arizona."

Dwyer-Polonsky has filed a number of grievances with prison authorities since March, complaining she was called a "faggot" by staff, had kisses blown at her by guards, was denied estrogen prescribed by a local physician and was consistently addressed as "Mr. Polonsky," rather than any of her legal names. Her driver's license and Social Security number are issued to "Carol," she said, although she is instructed she must sign documents as "Charles."

State Corrections Department official Candace Brower, in a response to letters from Dwyer-Polonsky, wrote, "The allegations that you make regarding mistreatment as a result of homophobia would be difficult to substantiate. Reports I have received indicate that any treatment that you receive, positive or negative, is a direct result of your behavior, not your sexual orientation."

Polonsky said she entered prison in Anchorage as a woman, and subsequently was reclassified as a man. She claims to have taken supplemental estrogen since 1979, but was deprived of it in Anchorage. As a result of that deprivation, she has suffered bleeding, she said.

An Anchorage physician, Dr. Talita Ikahihifo, confirmed she treated Polonsky three times in 1998 and that Polonsky was taking estrogen when she became her patient. Ikahihifo continued prescribing estrogen for her.

According to Bruce Richards, a Corrections Department special assistant, an inmate who desires transfer first applies for a special classification hearing.

"Whether or not such a hearing is granted is solely up to the superintendent," Richards said.

Valid reasons for transfer include lack of an appropriate level of security or lack of court-ordered treatment programs, Richards said.

"Medication is not a reason for transfer," he said. "Charles Polonsky is a man as far as the Department of Corrections is concerned. The rest of it, I can't talk about at all."

Dwyer-Polonsky is serving five years for committing robbery in Wasilla in 1999.

"I am not denying that I should be in jail, but I need a more suitable place," Dwyer-Polonsky said.

Carothers, who has been supintendent of Lemon Creek for 15 years, estimates that in the past two years 90 percent of the inmates there are content with staying where they are, while the other 10 percent "want to leave badly for all kinds of reasons, including 'It's too small,' 'I want to be closer to my family,' and 'You're too much in my business.'"

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