CeCe McDonald, a Minnesota trans woman imprisoned for second-degree manslaughter, was released from prison yesterday after serving two thirds of her 41-month sentence.
McDonald, who had been serving out her time in a men's prison, was greeted by Orange Is the New Black star and fellow trans woman Laverne Cox upon her exit. Cox is producing a documentary on McDonald, slated to be released later this year, titled Free CeCe!
McDonald was convicted for her role in the June 5, 2011, death of Dean Schmitz, a man who, along with friends, had allegedly instigated a physical altercation with McDonald and a group of her friends as the women passed by a bar in Minneapolis. In the minds of many, the actions that led to Schmitz's death were simply self-defense on McDonald's part.
Transgender advocacy groups celebrated McDonald's release but were quick to point out the antitransgender bias faced by many trans women of color, often pointing to the recent case of a California trans student recently charged with battery after facing relentless harassment by classmates.
"Just as we celebrate CeCe's return home, we're also reminded that attacks against transgender people continue," said Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, in a blog post. "Just last week, Jewlyes Gutierrez, a transgender student in Hercules, Calif., was charged with battery for defending herself against violent school bullies. Here are two transgender women, women of color, and young people who, just for being who they are, were mercilessly attacked."
"We send CeCe our warmest well-wishes on this joyous day," Masen Davis, executive director of the Transgender Law Center said in a statement posted to the organization's website. "It's time we stop re-victimizing young transgender women of color by pushing them into the criminal system. We all need to come together and find ways to prevent the extraordinarily high rates of violence and discrimination against trans women so that there will be no more cases like CeCe's."
McDonald will serve out the remainder of her sentence on parole.