This morning, the National Prison Rape Elimination Commission issued a comprehensive report of its work to investigate the causes and impact of sexual assault in prison and their recommendations of ways to address and eliminate this crime. The bipartisan commission was formed as a result of the Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003, which was passed unanimously by both houses of Congress.
The report demonstrates a notable awareness of transgender issues, with sensitivity and specific recommendations to address the very clear and heightened risk of sexual assault faced by transgender people who are incarcerated. At NCTE, we applaud the work of the commission and their inclusion of urgently needed standards to increase the safety of transgender people within the prison system. We particularly want to thank all of the transgender and allied advocates who advised the commission and the transgender people who courageously shared their stories that became a part of this report. The impact of their work is clear here.
The rape of prisoners by officials, guards and other inmates is unconscionable and must never be tolerated. We hope that today’s report will move us one step closer to safety for transgender people who are behind bars.
Some of the transgender specific areas of the report include:
- A recognition that transgender people are particularly at risk for rape and the use of examples of transgender people who have suffered sexual assault
- A call for the determination of inmate placement on an individual basis, which is to include a consideration of multiple factors and not simply genital status
- An emphasis on protection, rather than segregation: “Segregation must be a last resort and interim measure only. The Commission also discourages the creation of specialized units for vulnerable groups and specifically prohibits housing prisoners based solely on their sexual orientation or gender identity because it can lead to demoralizing and dangerous labeling.”
- The need for screening of prisoners for risk factors, including gender identity and gender non-conformity, that could make them more vulnerable to sexual assault
- A recognition of the particular risks faced by transgender girls who housed with boys in youth facilities, as well as the dangers to adult transgender people
- The inclusion of specific language addressing searches of transgender people, “Medical practitioners conduct examinations of transgender individuals to deter¬mine their genital status only in private settings and only when an individual’s genital status is unknown.”
The full report can be ordered, viewed or downloaded on the Commission’s website at http://nprec.us/publication/download/
We will continue to work with advocates for transgender people who are in prison and look to the implementation of the commission’s work.