Over 100 civil rights groups have signed onto a letter warning to the Federal Bureau of Prisons of the dangers posed by the Trump administration’s rollback of Obama-era protections for transgender inmates.
The agency updated its Transgender Offender Manual last month, changing from a policy that had housed trans inmates on a case-by-case basis to one that relies heavily on “biological sex.”
“The designation to a facility of the inmate’s identified gender would be appropriate only in rare cases,” the new version of the manual reads. It also states that transgender inmate safety is important, but that officials must also “consider whether placement would threaten the management and security of the institution and/or pose a risk to other inmates in the institution.”
“Transgender prisoners will unquestionably suffer serious harm if this policy is implemented as written,” the letter to Bureau of Prisons acting Director Hugh Hurwitz argues. “We ask that you reaffirm the BOP’s commitment to the safety of all of the people in its custody. We ask that you reaffirm the BOP’s congressionally-mandated obligation to adhere to each of the final National Standards to Prevent, Detect, and Respond to Prison Rape under the Prison Rape Elimination Act. We ask that you follow the requirements of PREA and the U.S. Constitution, not to mention basic human decency, and house transgender prisoners safely, based on their individual needs.”
The changes to the manual came after a group of Christian women in a Texas prison sued in U.S. District Court, claiming violations of privacy and endangerment of physical and mental health.
Ian Thompson, a legislative representative for the American Civil Liberties Union, who signed the letter—alongside groups such as the American Psychological Association, AIDS United, and the NAACP—told HuffPost the new BOP policy “all but mandates that transgender people in prison are to be housed according to their assigned sex at birth, regardless of the person’s gender identity.”
Thompson added that the policy “sends a clear message of disrespect, discrimination, and disregard that we know will have serious implications for the safety of transgender people in federal prison,” and is based in “anti-trans bigotry that animates the actions of this Justice Department.”