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The Trump Administration just got to combine two of its favorite activities: Undoing the Obama Adminstration’s work and hurting the queer community. On Friday, the Obama-era regulations ensuring trans prisoners would go to facilities based on the gender they identify as were ended. The official Transgender Offender Manual now reads “The designation to a facility of the inmate’s identified gender would be appropriate only in rare cases.”
The policy change comes after four evangelical women in a Texas prison filed suit in U.S. District Court challenging the guidelines. They claimed that being placed with trans women subjected them to dangerous conditions. The suit also calls trans women “men”, and claims that placing trans prisoners in the appropriate prisons “creates a situation that incessantly violates the privacy of female inmates; endangers the physical and mental health of the female Plaintiffs and others, including prison staff; [and] increases the potential for rape.”
A spokesperson for the Bureau of Prisons said the policy change “now addresses and articulates the balance of safety needs of transgender inmates as well as other inmates, including those with histories of trauma, privacy concerns, etc., on a case-by-case basis.”
However, LGBTQ people — and especially trans prisoners — have reported a much higher rate of abuse by other prisoners as well as prison staff. A 2014 survey from Black & Pink, an LGBTQ prisoner organization, reported that respondents were four times more likely to be sexually assaulted than the general prison population, and 76% report that prison staff intentionally placed them in high-risk situations for sexual assault.
In the United Kingdom, trans prisoners are similarly placed in the prisons of their sex-assigned-at-birth. This year, Marie Dean went on a hunger strike at HMP Preston in Lancashire. Her letter said, “I decided yesterday that I don’t want to be alive any more. I stopped eating and drinking and should die in about three, maybe four weeks. I think three [trans] girls have killed themselves now, but I think they did it too quickly.” The letter refers to Vicky Thompson, Joanne Latham and Jenny Swift, three trans prisoners who were found dead in men’s prisons.
By repealing the Obama-era regulations, we’re only ensuring that the abuse, murder and suicide of trans prisoners will only increase.