Connecticut became the first state to recognize the legal right of transgender prisoners to be housed with others of their gender.
SB 13 was passed by the Connecticut House and Senate earlier this month and was signed into law by Governor Dannel Malloy (D).
The bill allows transgender people in prison to be housed in a facility that aligns with their gender, to be searched by an officer of their gender, to be issued clothing appropriate for their gender, and to be addressed with the correct name and pronouns.
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It also sets up some protections from violence and gives prisoners the right to continue hormone replacement therapy in prison.
In order to access these rights, transgender prisoners need a diagnosis of gender dysphoria, which is a medical diagnosis for people who experience distress caused by their gender identity being different from their sex assigned at birth. Not every transgender person is diagnosed with gender dysphoria.
LGBTQ advocates hailed the new law.
“This is a really big deal,” said David McGuire of the ACLU of Connecticut. “It is, in our mind, the most protective transgender policy and law in the country.”
“The State of Connecticut’s Department of Corrections policies have far too long been non-responsive to the life threatening experiences women and transgender people go through,” said Janice Flemming Butler of Voices of Women of Color. “This measure should bring attention and measurable action to the mistreatment of women, transgender persons, and parents incarcerated in this state.”
The bill also includes protections for pregnant and minor prisoners.
Governor Malloy has a history of supporting LGBTQ equality. In 2011, he signed a bill banning discrimination on the basis of gender identity and expression.
Earlier this month, he bucked the national trend of states allowing adoption agencies to ban LGBTQ parents by inviting them to foster and adopt.
The Bureau of Justice Statistics estimates that there are 3,200 transgender inmates in the U.S.