Advocates praise the new Justice Department standards, though questions remain about separate rules for immigration detention, to be finalized by the Department of Homeland Security.
“There has been a lot of discrimination and violence against LGBT inmates in correctional facilities,” a senior Justice Department official said Thursday, “and DOJ has devoted a lot of attention in this rule to LGBTI issues because of these unique vulnerabilities.”
Among the final rules pertaining to gay, transgender, and intersex inmates, per DOJ:
-Agencies must train security staff in conducting professional and respectful cross-gender pat-down searches and searches of transgender and intersex inmates.
-Transgender and intersex inmates must be given the opportunity to shower separately from other inmates.
-In deciding whether to assign a transgender or intersex inmate to a facility for male or female inmates, and in making other housing and programming assignments, an agency may not simply assign the inmate to a facility based on genital status.
-LGBT and intersex inmates cannot be placed in dedicated facilities solely on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
Timed with the final rules, the Bureau of Justice Statistics released sobering figures Thursday on the incidence of prison rape among gay and bisexual inmates. According to a survey of former state prisoners conducted in 2008, 39% of gay male inmates reported that they had been assaulted by a fellow inmate, compared to 3.5% of heterosexual male inmates.
About one third of bisexual male inmates also reported that they had been sexually assaulted, while lesbian inmates reported incidents of sexual violence perpetrated by staff at twice the rate of female heterosexual inmates. The survey did not include transgender individuals, who by all accounts are among the most vulnerable to sexual assault in prison.
“This is absolutely lifesaving work,” Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, said of the Justice Department’s rules. “Transgender people are 13 times more likely to be assaulted in prison. … This is about how we protect vulnerable people, how we protect against HIV transmission, and how we end the misery and horror of sexual assault in prison.”[Full Article]
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