On Friday, the U.S. Bureau of Prisons released a freshly hacked-up Transgender Offender Manual, an Obama-era document which stipulated that prisoners would be recommended for housing based on gender identity. “Biological sex” is now listed as the primary consideration in sorting prisoners to male or female facilities. Buzzfeed reports that the decision resulted from a lawsuit by woman prisoners in Texas, who argued that they are at higher risk of rape when housed with transgender women.
The document, filled with strikethroughs and glaring yellow highlighter, is a picture of absurdity–cross out policy here, stuff in new words which lend an authoritative air to ignorant statements. The line “The TEC [Transgender Executive Council] will recommend housing by gender identity when appropriate,” for example, has been struck and replaced with “The TEC will use biological sex as the initial determination for designation.”
Just look at this:
Wardens may now recommend to the TEC that transgender inmates be transferred based on gender. The section on hormone treatment is deceptively preserved except for the insert of the word “necessary,” so “hormone and medical treatment” now reads “hormone and necessary medical treatment.”
The assumption that the guidelines will protect women clearly presumes that transgender women don’t count. An abundance of research has found that housing transgender people, women in particular, in opposite-sex prisons puts them at extreme physical peril. The 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey, conducted by the National Center for Transgender Equality, found that transgender people are over five times more likely to be sexually assaulted by prison staff and over nine times more likely to be sexually assaulted by other inmates. Just this month, Lindsay Saunders-Velez said she was raped in a men’s prison; last year, a woman sued the Massachusetts Department of Correction claiming she was subjected to constant humiliation; in 2015, Passion Star detailed 12 years of rape and beatings in a Texas prison, with scars on her face to show for it; in 2014, Zahara Green, who’d been living as a woman for eight years, was placed in a cell with a rapist and was raped; in 2016, an anonymous Australian woman said she was raped over 2,000 times in prison; and those are just a few examples of women who decided to go through the additional anguish or filing lawsuits.
The Texas women whose lawsuit inspired this policy change, on the other hand, argued that their “bodily and privacy rights are being violated” by “housing men [transgender women] in prison.” They stated:
I suffer an injury anytime I use the bathrooms, showers, or if I am placed in the Special Housing Unit (“SHU”), where female inmates are locked in a cell with men, forced to use the bathroom and shower in front of males.
l am being humiliated and degraded everyday so that men that identify as women can be comfortable. The rights of naturally born women are ignored.
So now they’ll get what they wanted, and men will be housed in women’s prisons.