Federal Survey: 40% of Transgender Prisoners Are Sexually Abused Each Year

December 18, 2014

The federal Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) this week reported national statistics for the first time on sexual abuse of transgender people in US prisons and jails. BJS estimates there were over 3,200 transgender people in US prisons nationwide in 2011-12, of whom 39.9% reported sexual assault or abuse in the last year by either another prisoner or staff. BJS also estimated there were over 1,700 transgender people in US jails in 2011-12, of whom 26.8% reported sexual assault or abuse in the last year. Transgender prisoners were victimized at rates nearly ten times those for prisoners in general (4% in prisons and 3.2% in jails).

The findings are similar to previously released research, including a California study finding that of transgender women held in men’s prisons, 59% had ever been sexually assaulted by another prisoner. While BJS did not break down transgender statistics by gender or type of facility, most prisons and jails continue to house essentially all transgender women with men despite 2012 federal rules calling for individualized placements. Previously released statistics from the same surveys found that gay, lesbian, and bisexual prisoners also face very higher rates of sexual assault behind bars—though the transgender rates are the highest by far.

Prison Inmate

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LGBTQ Organizations Release Intimate Partner Violence Community Action Toolkits

April 29, 2014

The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP) in association with GLAAD, the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE), the National Black Justice Coalition (NBJC), the Gay and Lesbian Taskforce and Trans People of Color Coalition (TPOCC) announce the release of two community action toolkits that provide lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) communities, survivors of intimate partner violence, and advocates working on their behalf, resources to address intimate partner violence on the individual and community level. The toolkits are focused specifically on intimate partner violence in transgender and people of color communities and highlight the adverse impact of intimate partner violence on transgender individuals and LGBTQ people of color.

NCAVP’s annual report Intimate Partner Violence in Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and HIV Affected Communities in 2012, released on October 1st, 2013, documents the disproportional impact of intimate partner violence on transgender people and people of color.  In 2012 a majority (52.4%) of the victims of intimate partner violence homicides were people of color and people of color were more likely to suffer injuries, require medical attention, experience harassment, or face anti-LGBTQ bias as a result of intimate partner violence. In addition, transgender survivors were more likely to face threats and intimidation, harassment, and police violence as a result of intimate partner violence. Additionally, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, lesbians, gay men and bisexual people experience intimate partner violence at the same or higher rates as non-LGB people.

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NCTE Applauds Federal Protections for Transgender Survivors of Violence

April 11, 2014

Department of Justice Clarifies Police, Courts, Shelters, and Others Must Respect Gender Identity

This week the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) release long-awaited guidance on the 2013 law prohibiting discrimination based on sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity by entities funded under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). VAWA’s nondiscrimination protections provide broad protections, not only for LGBT survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking, but for anyone else facing discrimination from law enforcement agencies, courts, or community groups that accept VAWA funding for any part of their operations. The guidelines clarify that refusing to accept a person’s self-identified gender when delivering services constitutes unlawful discrimination, and that in many cases segregating by gender in the first place is prohibited.

The guidance, from DOJ’s Office on Violence against Women, answers “Frequently Asked Questions” about the nondiscrimination law included in the 2013 reauthorization of VAWA, which for the first time explicitly prohibited discrimination based on sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity in any program or activity funded in whole or in part by VAWA. Critically, the guidance clarifies that all VAWA-funded services must be open to all persons regardless of gender. Sex-segregated programs are permitted only when an agency can prove the services can’t be provided any other way—in which case, fully equivalent services must be provided to people of all genders.


Photo: Chuck Kennedy

Photo: Chuck Kennedy

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Senate Subcommittee Hearing Considers Ending Solitary Confinement

February 25, 2014

An estimated 80,000 people are in solitary confinement in the United States at any given time. Today, the US Senate Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights will hold a hearing on the human rights, fiscal and public safety consequences of solitary confinement. This is a follow-up to a hearing held in 2012, and since that time there have been further actions by state and federal officials to reassess, limit, and in some cases eliminate the use of solitary confinement. The head of the Federal Bureau of Prisons will testify today about his agency’s promise to review the use of solitary confinement in federal prisons. Senators will also hear from the head of Colorado’s prisons, who—charged by that state’s governor with limiting the use of solitary—penned an unsettling New York Times op-ed about spending a day in solitary himself.

Read our testimony here:

View this document on Scribd

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New Report Highlights Struggles for Trans Latina Immigrants

January 3, 2014

The TransLatin@ Coalition recently released a new report titled “TransVisible: Transgender Latina Immigrants in U.S. Society,”  which is based on the Coalition’s survey of 101 transgender Latina immigrants around the country.  The report summarizes the results of the survey, highlights the challenges that trans Latina immigrants face, and makes recommendations for changes in laws, policies, programs, and attitudes.

The report revealed that challenges related to ID documents, education, employment, health care services, and interpersonal/structural violence have profound impacts on the lives of transgender Latina immigrants.

Although 99% of survey participants said they had better opportunities in the US than in their country of origin, the survey showed that they still face horrendous levels of discrimination in the US because of their gender identity.  The statistics on their experiences in the US are bleak. Nearly 80% of respondents expressed moderate or extreme difficulty in obtaining documentation that reflected their names and gender identities. Only half reported being employed, and only nine percent stated that they were medically insured through their employment. And about 70% said they knew another transgender Latina immigrant who had been murdered.

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New report uncovers ongoing failure to report, investigate sexual abuse in immigration detention

November 27, 2013

Last week, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a 93 page summary of their investigation into immigration detention facilities and whether they are properly reporting the sexual abuse of immigrant detainees. The report unveils the ongoing failures of immigration detention facilities in reporting and addressing instances of sexual abuse that occur far too frequently in immigration detention sites. For example, the GAO report details the experience of a transgender woman who was sexually assaulted by a male guard while in solitary confinement in a male facility. In this case, the guard admitted to the abuse and was prosecuted by federal authorities. However, the report explained that many allegations of sexual abuse by detainees around the country go unreported and unaddressed by detention staff. Shockingly, at the facilities that GAO visited during their investigation, 40% of the allegations made by detainees had not been reported to ICE headquarters as required.

Over the years, NCTE has worked to prevent the sexual assault of all people in confinement. We have especially highlighted the abuse of transgender immigrants, who are among the most vulnerable to abuse. In addition to encouraging the Department of Homeland Security to issue strong regulations that comply with the Prison Rape Elimination Act, NCTE released a report detailing trans immigrants’ struggles, and encouraged ICE to improve its monitoring of the use of solitary confinement. Although DHS has made some important steps forward, much still needs to be done to ensure that all immigrants, and especially vulnerable transgender immigrants, are free from abuse and mistreatment in detention.

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NCTE Leads Effort to End LGBTI Sexual Abuse in Immigration Detention

March 4, 2013
Ana-Haydee Urda (left front) in the rally against private prisons was sponsored by United Methodist Women and the United Methodist Task Force on Immigration. A UMNS photo by Paul Jeffrey.

Ana-Haydee Urda (left front) in the 2012 rally against private prisons sponsored by United Methodist Women and the United Methodist Task Force on Immigration. A UMNS photo by Paul Jeffrey.

Last week, the National Center for Transgender Equality, with our partners at Just Detention International  led advocacy efforts urging Secretary Napolitano and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to strengthen protections against sexual abuse of LGBT people and people with intersex conditions in immigration detention. In addition to organizing over 800 individual comments and dozens of organizational comments, NCTE joined eight other national LGBT and allied groups in filing over 30 pages of public comments on the proposed regulations that address this problem, which is part of the implementation of the Prison Rape Elimination Act.

Sexual abuse of LGBT people and people with intersex conditions violates their basic human rights. The U.S. government has an obligation to provide safe and humane conditions for people in confinement. Not doing so impedes detainee’s ability to obtain lawful immigration status when eligible and to successfully adjust back into the community. Additionally, public health considerations like the widespread transmission of HIV and the growing rates of depression, anxiety and suicide ideation among immigration detainees demand swift action by the Department of Homeland Security.

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Ending Prison Rape: A New Resource for LGBT and Gender Nonconforming People

July 26, 2012

More than 200,000 youth and adults are sexually abused in prisons, jails and juvenile detention facilities each year, and a disproportionate number are transgender and gender nonconforming people. Hard work over several years by NCTE and other trans, LGBT and intersex advocates paid off in May with the release by the Department of Justice of final National Standards to Prevent, Detect, and Respond to Prison Rape, which have the potential to be a big part of the solution. NCTE has created a fact sheet regarding the new standards, which were called for by the Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003 (PREA), and which facilities across the country will have to follow in order to maintain federal funding or required accreditations.

LGBT People and the Prison Rape Elimination Act highlights and explains the sections most relevant to transgender people, the broader LGBT community, and those people with intersex conditions such as:

  • Requiring a case-by-case consideration for housing in a male or female facility that is not based on genital status, meaning more trans women will be housed with other women.
  • Limitations on the use of isolating “protective custody” to which trans people are often subjected.
  • Limitations to ensure that special housing units do not become a stigmatizing and ineffective quick-fix for housing LGBT and gender nonconforming people and those with intersex conditions.
  • Requiring staff training on working with transgender and gender nonconforming inmates as well as LGBT people more broadly and those with intersex conditions.
  • Banning the search or physical examination of transgender inmates and those with intersex conditions solely for determining their genital status.
  • New requirements for staff hiring, inmate screening, reporting and investigating abuse, and provider support to abuse survivors.

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