The United States Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) has this month removed rules and regulations introduced during the Trump administration that specifically targeted transgender inmates in the prison system.
The revised guidelines remove former President Donald Trump's 2018 mandate that transgender inmates be housed based on the notion of “biological sex”, itself a reversal of protections put in place under Trump's predecessor, President Barack Obama. Transgender and intersex inmates will now be asked their own views, pronouns, and will have their safety taken into consideration when housing units and programs are assigned. They will also be given the possibility to shower separately where individual stalls are not available.
The Transgender Offender Manual also provides information on how inmates can access support and interventions, from hormones and psychological help to receiving gender-affirming surgery, for those individuals that choose that approach.
“The federal BOP has issued important new guidelines that will hopefully help keep transgender people in its custody safe and provide access to life-saving healthcare including gender-affirming surgery,” Richard Saenz, Lambda Legal Senior Attorney and Criminal Justice and Police Misconduct Strategist, said in a statement regarding the changes.
“This reaffirms the constitutional rights of incarcerated transgender people and should be an example for state prisons systems and local jails to do their duty to keep people in their custody safe.”
BOP staff will receive annual training on how to effectively and sensitively deal with transgender inmates, including not misgendering people, and related issues. Training is particularly important to provide the correct support as trans people are at an increased risk of suicide, mental health issues, and discrimination inside and outside the prison system.
A 2018 report showed that incarcerated transgender people in the US are 10 times more likely to be sexually assaulted than the general prison population. LGBTQ+ people, particularly LGBTQ+ people of color and economically disadvantaged LGBTQ+ people, are overrepresented in the US prison population while being more vulnerable to violence and mistreatment in these settings, another report found.
The United States has the highest prison and jail population (2,120,000 in adult facilities) and the highest incarceration rate in the world with 639 prisoners per 100,000 people. The US prison system has been at the center of criticism and scandal in recent years, whether it's the disproportionate number of incarcerated people from ethnic and racial minorities or the significant fraction of inmates incarcerated inside for-profit private prisons.
There are an estimated 1.4 million transgender adults in the US, according to a report from UCLA Law's Williams Institute, and yet it was as recently as 2020 that the US, at a federal level, banned employers from being to discriminate against LGBTQ+ people based on gender identity or sexual orientation. Institutional transphobia and lack of support is still a big issue across the US.
[H/T: The Hill]