A transgender inmate who says she was raped at a men’s federal prison is suing Colorado’s corrections agency.
The Bureau of Prisons rolled back some measures on Friday that helped prevent transgender prisoners from being harassed, assaulted and sexually abused.
The rules, posted just two days before President Trump’s inauguration, laid out a number of guidelines for how prisons and guards should treat transgender inmates.
The manual instructed prisons to “recommend housing by gender identity when appropriate.”
Now, under Trump, some of the policies have been altered, according to an updated manual posted to the Bureau of Prisons website Friday.
Officials will now use “biological sex as the initial determination” for where transgender inmates are housed. The line recommending housing by gender equality was struck out and highlighted.
The new policy notes “the designation to a facility of the inmate’s identified gender would be appropriate only in rare cases.” The guide says “health” and safety” of the inmate should be considered when deciding where they will be housed.
Transgender inmates face a higher rate of sexual assault than other inmates, according to a study on statistics from more than 600 correctional facilities during 2011 and 2012.
The analysis by the Bureau of Justice found more than one in three transgender inmates in state and federal prisons had been sexually assaulted within a year. In the general population, one in about 25 inmates said they’d experienced sexual assault.
The updated manual was aimed to lower those statistics.
The changes to the manual also include adding the word “necessary” to a section about hormone and medical treatment. The section is now titled “hormone and necessary medical treatment,” a possible signal on rollbacks for certain procedures or treatments.
BuzzFeed News, which first reported the change, noted the alterations come after four women filed a lawsuit in Texas that targeted the Obama-era manual and protections for transgender inmates, which were put in place in 2012.
The women said housing transgender women with the general female population was dangerous and “increases the potential for rape.” They said in the suit that the measure violates their privacy and harms their mental state.
The lead plaintiff on the 2016 suit is Rhonda Fleming, an ardent Republican who was convicted in 2009 of running a $36 million Medicare fraud business based in Houston. She is housed at a female prison in Carswell, Texas.
They aim to rid female facilities of transgender women like Donna Langan, a convicted serial bank robber and former leader in a white supremacist group, who was also housed at the same Carswell prison.
Langan told The Dallas Morning News she lived a double life for so long but living at the Carswell facility allowed her to feel safe and be herself.
“Someone does not choose to be transgender. It is not a lifestyle. My not being able to deal with it myself led me down a path of self-destruction,” Langan said. “My only possible redemption is to complete my transition.”
Langan added: “To send me away to a male prison will surely be the end of me.”
Fleming and the other women who signed on the case told The Dallas Morning News that they feel threatened by transgender women being housed with them and feel the Obama-era rule side-stepped their rights to privacy.
“I am being humiliated and degraded every day so that men that identify as women can be comfortable,” Fleming said.
She said she held a hunger strike in hopes of forcing out these inmates and, in her lawsuit, compared the housing situation to “cruel and unusual punishment.”
“Let me be clear,” Fleming told The News. “I don’t hate these people, but I have a preference for the safety of women in prison.”
The case was settled out of court last year. The details of the agreement are not public.
Nancy Ayers, a spokesperson for the Bureau of Prisons, told BuzzFeed News the changes better articulate “the balance of safety needs of transgender inmates as well as other inmates, including those with histories of trauma, privacy concerns” and that matters would be handled on a “case-by-case basis.”
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