BOP Must Comply with Federal Law, Best Practices that Protect Transgender Prisoners
Today, reports surfaced that the Trump administration could use a lawsuit settlement to change its established policies for safely housing transgender women in federal prisons. The lawsuit, brought by anti-LGBTQ group Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), alleged that the presence of transgender women violated the rights of other women prisoners. Reports suggested that the Federal Bureau of Prisons might segregate transgender women within women’s prisons as part of a settlement.
NCTE Executive Director Mara Keisling made the following statement:
This lawsuit has never had any merit, and any changes to BOP policies must comply with federal law and the best practices followed by agencies across the country.
Federal law is unchanged: prison officials must make a genuine, individual, case-by-case assessment of whether a transgender person is most safely and appropriately housed with members of their own, self-identified gender. The law also forbids the dangerous practice of automatically segregating transgender prisoners. That is the standard for BOP and around the country. Any effort to abandon that standard, to force vulnerable women into segregation or back into men’s prisons, would raise serious legal concerns and we will watch closely what the BOP does.
The Justice Department’s own statistics show that more than one in three transgender prisoners reports having been sexually abused by staff or another prisoner in the last year. Courts have repeatedly rejected claims that the mere presence of a transgender person in a restroom, locker room, or prison unit somehow infringes on the rights of others--including earlier this week in an Illinois case brought by ADF.
Protections for transgender prisoners are written into national standards under the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA), developed over many years by a bipartisan commission appointed by President George W. Bush and Congressional leaders, and later codified by the Justice Department in 2012.