Late Friday, BuzzFeed reported that the Trump administration erased federal Bureau of Prisons rules intended to address the health and safety of incarcerated transgender people. These rules, grounded firmly in the Prison Rape Elimination Act signed by George W. Bush, were an attempt to reduce the violence, harassment, abuse and sexual assault that transgender and gender-nonconforming people regularly experience at terrifying rates in prisons and jails.
“This is a cruel, politically-motivated rollback that will have devastating consequences for the well-being of transgender people in prison,” said Kris Hayashi, Transgender Law Center’s Executive Director. “This administration is targeting our communities in some of the areas where they are already the most vulnerable. These attacks on trans immigrants, on our access to healthcare, trans youth, and now on trans people who are incarcerated are particularly deplorable.”
According to a 2014 Bureau of Justice Statistics report, 40% of transgender people in prison reported being sexually assaulted or abused between 2011 and 2012. The 2015 US Transgender Survey found that transgender people were five times more likely to be sexually assaulted by facility staff than non-transgender people in jails and prisons, and transgender people were over nine more likely to be sexually assaulted by other inmates. Lambda Legal’s 2012 survey of transgender prisoners, Protected and Served, found that 57% of respondents reported being verbally assaulted or harassed and 12% reported being physically assaulted by staff in the previous five years. In all cases where the race of participants was considered, these rates were dramatically higher for transgender people of color.
“This has been an awful week,” added Isa Noyola, Transgender Law Center’s Deputy Director, who met last week with a group of trans people seeking asylum in the United States. “At the border, in prison, and in the streets, the state clearly sees us as disposable.”
“We already receive countless horrifying reports of abuse and mistreatment of transgender people on the inside,” said Lynly Egyes, Transgender Law Center’s Director of Litigation. “Rolling back these measures undermines the very mission of the Prison Rape Elimination Act and is guaranteed to subject trans people to even more violence. We are exploring all options, including litigation, to fight this direct attack on transgender people in prison.”
Transgender Law Center operates a Legal Helpline for TGNC people experiencing discrimination.