The Department of Justice (DOJ) will reportedly review the treatment of transgender inmates within the Bureau of Prisons (BOP), they announced this week. This comes after a trans inmate has been ordered to be rehoused by the Transgender Executive Council within the bureau.
There are as many as 1,200 transgender inmates within the federal jail system. The department has not officially confirmed such a review is beginning.
The BOP’s Transgender Executive Council was first formed in 2016 and consists of about 10 BOP employees, including two psychologists, a psychiatrist, and prison designation experts. They consider issues affecting trans inmates and on “rare” instances direct the BOP to make changes.
Under the Obama administration, the BOP would “recommend housing by gender identity when appropriate.” The Trump administration changed that and require the BOP to always “use biological sex as the initial determination” to house people.
A review would be the first hint of changes to come from the Biden administration. The policy review is “including providing gender-affirming housing where appropriate,” the Justice Department official told the Associated Press. “BOP is in the process of reviewing the current version of its policy regarding transgender inmates.”
The news comes days after Emily Claire Hari, a convicted domestic terrorist, was sentenced for bombing a mosque to try and kill Muslims on August 5, 2017.
A federal jury convicted Hari of five charges related to the bombing in December 2020. Her lawyer, Shannon Elkins, had asked the court to take Hari’s trans identity into account when sentencing her. Her lawyer further claimed in attempts to earn leniency for Hari that gender dysphoria and right-wing disinformation were part of what impaired Hari’s judgment.
The court sentenced Hari to 53 years behind bars this week, more than the 30 years Elkins sought but less than the maximum sentence of life in prison.
Local and state correctional systems across the country have also been forced by courts or government officials to become more accommodating of trans inmates in recent years.
Wisconsin recently lost a federal lawsuit to an inmate after denying her gender-affirming healthcare for years, and a federal lawsuit has been filed against Michigan’s Department of Corrections because she has not only been repeatedly housed with cis male inmates but multiple convicted rapists.
In Georgia, the DOJ has launched an investigation into the allegedly deplorable conditions in Georgia state prisons, sparked by an ongoing investigation into anti-LGBTQ sexual violence committed by prisoners and staff in Georgia. Based on 44 murders, reports of inadequate living conditions, smuggled weapons, and gang activity, U.S. Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke said this week that DOJ found “significant justification” to open the investigation into the state’s prison system.
The DOJ recently investigated the state of Alabama and New Jersey over similar issues. New Jersey came to an arrangement with the DOJ, and Alabama was sued last year.
That investigation into Georgia prisons was opened a year after Ashley Diamond, a transgender woman in Georgia who was housed in a men’s facility and was sexually assaulted 14 times while in prison, filed a federal lawsuit against the state’s prisons. She was also denied hormone therapy.
“Being a woman in a men’s prison is a nightmare,” Diamond said in a statement. “I’ve been stripped of my identity. I never feel safe. Never. I experience sexual harassment on a daily basis, and the fear of sexual assault is always a looming thought.”
The GDC denies that there is a “pattern or practice” of neglecting the conditions of inmates in the state and said that the department remains “committed to the safety of all the offenders in its custody.”