The Trump administration has rolled back yet another policy directive set by former President Barack Obama, this time involving protections for transgender prison inmates.
BuzzFeed reported Friday that the Bureau of Prisons has modified its Transgender Offender Manual to strike language guiding the Transgender Executive Council (TEC), which evaluates issues related to prison management and security for transgender inmates, to recommend housing by gender identity. Instead, the new policy instructs the TEC to “use biological sex as the initial determination for designation.”
The manual adds, “The designation to a facility of the inmate’s identified gender would be appropriate only in rare cases.”
The policy change follows a federal lawsuit by four evangelical Christian women in a Texas prison who claimed that sharing living quarters with transgender women placed them at a greater risk for being raped. The Justice Department said last August that it would review the lawsuit. Friday’s change to the manual is a response to that review.
The manual also states that prison officials must “consider whether placement would threaten the management and security of the institution and/or pose a risk to other inmates in the institution.”
David Stacy, government affairs director of the Human Rights Campaign, called the new rules “harmful and disrespectful,” according to Reuters.
In a statement, National Center for Transgender Equality Executive Director Mara Keisling said, “Transgender people already know the Trump-Pence administration is dedicated to stripping away our rights. Their cruelty is only made more evident as they continually go after the most vulnerable among us.”
Keisling added, “The extreme rates of physical and sexual violence faced by transgender people in our nation’s prisons is a stain on the entire criminal justice system.”
Bureau of Prisons spokeswoman Nancy Ayers told BuzzFeed that, “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.”
The Obama administration introduced the guidelines in January 2017, just before Obama left office.
The Trump administration’s response to the lawsuit comes just two months after the White House announced it would ban transgender people from serving in the military. Several lawsuits have since been filed challenging that announcement.
Recent reports noted that a panel of officials from the Defense and Homeland Security departments that met in 2017 and favored allowing trans people to openly serve in the country’s armed forces seem to have been overruled by Vice President Mike Pence’s own “working group” composed of anti–LGBTQ activists.