Shields would not comment on the specifics of Brown’s case. But he said agency chief Stephen T. Moyer issued a directive in April outlining a policy in which transgender inmates choose whether they are strip-searched by a male or female guard. Shields added that the policy explicitly prohibits searches “for the purpose of determining one’s genitalia.”
Before the directive was issued, each institution was responsible for developing and implementing its own standards for searching transgender inmates, Shields said. The audits show most institutions did not do so.
The directive does not deal with housing transgender inmates or training for guards, Shields said. However, the state has issued several directives aimed at improving investigative techniques and the administrative handling of “vulnerable inmates,” he said. All guards are trained on the federal law, known as PREA, during academy classes, and each prison has a PREA coordinator on site.
The state does not track of the number of transgender prisoners.
Rebecca Earlbeck, an attorney at FreeState Legal Project, a civil legal aid organization, called the ruling “a victory for the rights of incarcerated transgender people.”
“This ruling forces the entire state corrections system to adopt a clear policy for the treatment of transgender inmates regarding searches, housing and interaction with transgender inmates,” Earlbeck said. “Just as importantly, the ruling also requires mandatory staff training on these policies.”
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