Think about anything positive that happened in the eight years before Trump was inaugurated, and the chances are good that the administration has reversed it or is in the process of trying to reverse it.
That latest instance comes with the decision today from the Federal Bureau of Prisons to rescind the policies that allowed transgender inmates to be assigned to cellblocks and use bathrooms that match their gender identity rather than their birth gender, according to a report on Buzzfeed.
That Obama-era policy was wisely instituted to protect transgender prisoners from sexual abuse and assault while incarcerated, something that is apparently of no concern to the Trump administration.
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The Bureau of Prisons will now “use biological sex” to determine the type of housing transgender inmates are assigned, according to a notice posted tonight that reverses the prior policy.
“The designation to a facility of the inmate’s identified gender would be appropriate only in rare cases,” the new Transgender Offender Manual now reads.
While the new policy does indicate that a transgender inmate’s safety should be considered in the assignment, officials also must “consider whether placement would threaten the management and security of the institution and/or pose a risk to other inmates in the institution.”
In practice, the new policy could wind up placing transgender women in the same cells as men, practically an invitation to potential violence, abuse, and rape.
The policy change resulted in part from a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court by four evangelical Christian female inmates in a Texas prison who claimed that sharing cells with transgender women “subjected them to dangerous conditions.”
The suit by the so-called “Christian” inmates alleged that placing the transgender women, whom they insisted on calling “men”, in with the overall female population ”creates a situation that incessantly violates the privacy of female inmates; endangers the physical and mental health of the female Plaintiffs and others, including prison staff; [and] increases the potential for rape.”
While it sounds like they don’t quite understand the concept of transgender, their irrational fears are not backed up by any evidence of actual instances where anyone was harmed, except by their own prejudices.
On the other hand, the 2012 regulations protecting transgender inmates from violence under the Prison Rape Elimination Act, and the subsequent memo from the Obama administration’s Bureau of Prisons on how to deal with non-binary gendered prisoners, cite the real existence of an “increased risk of suicide, mental health issues and victimization” for these inmates.
A spokesperson for the Bureau of Prisons, Nancy Ayers, told BuzzFeed that the policy still considers the needs of transgender inmates and other inmates in accordance with the Prison Rape Elimination Act regulation.
“The manual now addresses and articulates the balance of safety needs of transgender inmates as well as other inmates, including those with histories of trauma, privacy concerns, etc., on a case-by-case basis,” Ayers said.
How well the individual situations of transgender inmates will be handled remains to be seen, but in its haste to erase all evidence of the Obama presidency from the legal register as well as the history books, the Trump administration now has the safety of transgender prisoners in its hands. Any violence that may take place is their responsibility and theirs alone.
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