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'Absolutely Unconscionable': Trump Rolls Back Rules Protecting Transgender Inmates from Sexual Assault

"The administration is clearly prepared to encourage federal prisons to violate federal law and advance its own inhumane agenda."

Jake Johnson

"Once again, the Trump administration is turning its back on those most vulnerable," Richard Saenz, a staff attorney at Lambda Legal, said in a statement. (Photo: Reuters)

In a policy shift LGBTQ rights groups denounced as "a deliberate recipe for violence against transgender people," the Trump administration on Friday rolled back rules allowing transgender inmates to use facilities that match their gender identity and instructed federal officials to use "biological sex" in determining housing assignments.

"This administration seems to be using every opportunity to roll back progress for transgender people."
—Vanita Gupta, Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights

"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," Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, said in a statement responding to the Trump administration's move. "Instead of leaving the existing policy alone, the administration is clearly prepared to encourage federal prisons to violate federal law and advance its own inhumane agenda."

According to Buzzfeed, which first reported the rule rollback on Friday, the White House's policy shift "comes after four evangelical Christian women in a Texas prison sued in U.S. District Court to challenge the Obama-era guidelines," asserting that sharing facilities with transgender women put them in danger.

The Trump administration appears to have accepted this claim wholesale.

Last August, Trump's Justice Department announced that it would "evaluate" the issues raised in the Texas case, and on Friday the administration issued new "guidelines that instruct officials to 'use biological sex as the initial determination for designation' for screening, housing, and offering programming services, saying the policy is 'consistent with maintaining security and good order in Federal prisons,'" Buzzfeed reports.

"Once again, the Trump administration is turning its back on those most vulnerable. It is well established that transgender prisoners—particularly transgender women housed in men's facilities—suffer much greater rates of sexual abuse than other prison populations," Richard Saenz, a staff attorney at Lambda Legal, said in a statement. "Conversely, it is increasingly common for correctional facilities to house transgender people consistent with their gender identity, and agencies have made these placements without experiencing any increase in abusive incidents or security risks."

"There is no justification for this policy shift; it is a deliberate recipe for violence against transgender people based in inexcusable prejudice," Saenz added.

Responding to the Trump administration's rule changes on Friday, Vanita Gupta, chief executive of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, said the shift is part of the White House's broad anti-LGBTQ agenda that has already significantly impacted numerous sectors of American society.

"This administration seems to be using every opportunity to roll back progress for LGBTQ and transgender people, even against the grain of where the American public is, and is headed, on these issues," Gupta concluded.


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