The Trump administration is expected to rollback Obama-era protections for transgender inmates.
The move is expected to come in the form of a legal settlement to a federal lawsuit brought by cisgender female inmates in Texas who said their rights to rights are being violated by being housed with trans people.
“My bodily rights are being violated by the Defendants housing men in the prison,” lead plaintiff Rhonda Fleming, a Trump supporter, wrote in January 2017. “I am being humiliated and degraded every day so that men that identify as women can be comfortable.”
The far-right legal group Alliance Defending Freedom, the same group that helped the Department of Justice craft its so-called religious freedom memo, and is defending the baker in Colorado who refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex marriage before the U.S. Supreme Court, is representing the plaintiffs in the case. The DOJ and the Alliance Defending Freedom are now reportedly in negotiations to come to a settlement out of court.
Alliance Defending Freedom attorney Gary McCaleb told The Dallas Morning News that he expected the Bureau of Prisons to change its policies for housing trans inmates, although not necessarily in such a way that would require all trans women to be housed with men.
“We expect a serious effort on the part of the federal government to correct this,” McCaleb said. “We need to see progress. If there’s no progress, we’ll be back in court.”
Meanwhile, Fleming is now unhappy with the Trump administration, believing they are attempting to make the issue go away quietly before the midterms, instead of going to court. She also said she wants the Alliance Defending Freedom off her case, because she believes their close relationship with the administration causes a conflict of interests.
The DOJ issued guidelines in 2012, with the Prison Rape Elimination Act, stating that transgender inmates should not be house solely based on the gender assigned to them at birth, instead making the determination on a case-by-case basis.
The Obama administration also released a training manual for prison workers shortly before Trump assumed office, instructing them how to treat trans inmates, in particular when it comes to housing, strip searches, and access to healthcare.
The manual states that a trans inmate’s “views with respect to his/her own safety must be given serious consideration” by prisons.
Lawyers for the DOJ argued back in August that the women had not exhausted their administrative options, nor had they proven sharing common areas with trans inmates threatened their safety. However, the federal government stopped short of defending the Obama-era policy itself, suggesting they were considering altering those guidelines.
There are currently 473 transgender individuals in federal prison, out of a total of 184,000 federal inmates.
Donna Langan, an ex-bank robber and reformed white supremacist, is one of the transgender women at the center of the case, has said that after two decades in lockup she finally feels safe to be herself.
“I have tried over the years to be a better person, mostly by letting go of my old attitude and ideas about race and religion,” Langan said. “Someone does not choose to be transgender. It is not a lifestyle. My not being able to deal with it myself led me down a path of self destruction. My only possible redemption is to complete my transition.
“To send me away to a male prison will surely be the end of me.”