DOJ to Review Trump-Era Housing Guidelines For Trans Inmates

Signage is seen at the United States Department of Justice headquarters in Washington, D.C.
The Department of Justice is reviewing its policies on housing trans inmates.
REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

Just days after announcing an investigation into the treatment of incarcerated LGBTQ individuals, the Department of Justice said it would re-evaluate Trump-era policies limiting the housing rights of transgender inmates in prison.

In a statement to Gay City News, a Justice Department spokesperson confirmed a report by the Associated Press that the agency is committed to offering all inmates safe, gender-affirming housing.

“[The Bureau of Prisons] is in the process of reviewing the current version of its policy regarding transgender inmates, which was developed in order to meet the community standard of medical and mental health care, appropriately manage and support the offenders, and meet legal requirements as determined by case law, statutes, and federal regulations,” a DOJ spokesperson said in a statement.

Under the Trump administration, the Transgender Offender Manual advised the committee to house transgender inmates based on their “biological sex” instead of their gender identity. According to the manual, it is only “in rare cases” that trans inmates are housed in facilities that align with their gender.

The DOJ is reviewing this process as the Bureau of Prisons’ Transgender Executive Council considers housing for Emily Claire Hari, a transgender woman who is serving life in prison for the 2017 bombing of the Dar al-Farooq (DAF) Islamic Center in Bloomington, Minnesota. Four years ago, Hari created the terrorist militia group “The White Rabbits,” which set off deadly explosives and defaced a mosque during weekly prayers. While no one was injured or killed in the attack, Hari’s actions triggered a wave of panic and fear in the Muslim community.

In April, the DOJ filed a brief in response to a lawsuit filed last November by Ashley Diamond, a transgender woman who has been housed in a men’s prison in Georgia and has faced ongoing sexual assaults. The DOJ did not take a position in the case but noted that the US Constitution “requires prison officials to conduct individualized assessments that lead to reasonably safe conditions of confinement and adequate medical care for all prisoners.”

The announcement coincides with news that the DOJ will investigate the treatment of LGBTQ inmates in Georgia as part of a broader investigation into conditions at prisons in the state after dozens of incarcerated individuals died due to homicide and other forms of fatal violence dating back to last year. This investigation builds on a 2016 probe into whether the state provides queer prisoners “reasonable protection from sexual abuse” by other prisoners and by staff in the prisons.

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