U.S. Reviews Prison Housing Policies: U.S. Justice Department reviews policies regarding people who are transgender and experiencing incarceration

The U.S Department of Justice has recently begun a new initiative that will reevaluate issues that occur when incarcerating transgender people who are experiencing incarceration. 

A policy for housing transgender people who are experiencing incarceration was initially put into place under the Obama administration. The policy, known as the Transgender Offender Manual, recommended that  legal counsel take gender identity into account when recommending housing in deliberations. 

The policy was then changed under the Trump administration when the policy was altered to using biological sex for housing determinations. With this new policy, many transgender people experiencing incarceration were placed in housing that did not align with their gender identity. 

Due to issues that arose under the altered policy, the Department of Justice is now looking to alter the policy back in favor of taking gender identity into consideration, rather than biological sex. 

While no decision has been made as of yet, the discussions are still being had amongst a special committee appointed by the Department of Justice. 

Transgender rights have always been a controversial factor in determining housing for trangender people experiencing incarceration. 

According to the Department of Justice, of the 156,000 federal people experiencing incarceration residing in the United States, about 1,200 are transgender. 

The decision to re-evaluate the policy came after the recent sentencing of Emily Claire Hari, a transgender woman who bombed the Dar al-Farooq Islamic Center in Bloomington, Minn.

Shortly after her 53-year sentence, Hari and her lawyer submitted a request to the courts asking that they take her gender identity into consideration while contemplating her housing placements. 

Hari has said that gender dysphoria and the actions of right-wing misinformation was her influence in the actions that she took leading into the bombing. Hari was found guilty of civil rights and hate crime charges. 

In the years since the policy change under the Trump administration, queer activists have been pushing back against the change. The policy has been labeled as a “double punishment” for trangender people experiencing incarceration to go through gender dysphoria as well as the intended punishment of prison time. 

The concept of housing for transgender individuals has been a hot topic of discussion among queer and criminal justice communities for a long while. “Jails and prisons have no control over the type of [people experiencing incarceration]—mentally ill, gang member, hard-core or first-timer—who comes in,” Gary Cornelius stated.

Due to the wide variety of people that come into the prison system, it is vital to have a system in place to accommodate every type of person experiencing incarceration. 

Sources: The Hill, USnews.com, NY Daily News, Penal Reform.com, Lexipol

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