- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 3, 2006

NEW YORK (AP) — One of the nation’s few jail dormitories specifically for homosexual or transsexual prisoners is closing on Rikers Island, prompting complaints from some activists.

The unit stopped accepting new inmates in November at the direction of Department of Correction Commissioner Martin Horn. With only 56 inmates left in the unit last week, it could be shut entirely within the next few weeks, the department said.

Plans call for the specialized unit to be replaced with a protective custody system. The change has alarmed members of some civil liberties and homosexual rights groups.

“People should not be punished for wanting to be safe,” said D. Horowitz, a legal fellow at the Sylvia Rivera Law Project.

The unit, reserved for prisoners in pretrial detention, opened on the city’s island prison complex in the late 1970s to assuage complaints about abusive treatment of homosexuals. It has space for 146 prisoners but was holding 126 when it began emptying.

Correction Department spokesman Tom Antenen said the unit was being eliminated as part of a broader restructuring of the jail’s prisoner classification system.

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