Sessions Strikes Down Obama Transgender Prison Policy


In the Trump administration’s latest effort to dismantle unpopular mandates by President Barack Obama, deputies for Attorney General Jeff Sessions ended a transgender policy on Friday regarding federal prisons.

The move reverses a policy implemented by the Obama administration that would allow men to move into women’s prisons if the prisoner claimed to identify as female.

According to BuzzFeed, the revised policy states that authorities are to use the “biological sex as the initial determination” when prisoners are being assigned to a penitentiary.

“The designation to a facility of the inmate’s identified gender would be appropriate only in rare cases,” the new Transgender Offender Manual states.

Though the newly-implemented policy states that a transgender inmate’s safety will be considered, authorities are expected to also consider whether “placement would threaten the management and security of the institution and/or pose a risk to other inmates in the institution.”

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The policy change came after four evangelical Christian women, who were placed in a Texas prison, sued the U.S. District Court in order to challenge what they said placed them in dangerous circumstances.

The four women were wary of the former administration’s policies that forced them to share close quarters with transgender women.

The complaint from the evangelical women alleged that housing transgender women — who were called “men” in the complaint — alongside female prisoners created a situation that was hostile.

The complaint goes on to state the former policy “incessantly violates the privacy of female inmates; endangers the physical and mental health of the female plaintiffs and others, including prison staff; and increases the potential for rape.”

Should transgender prisoners be kept in prisons that correspond to their biological gender?

Critics of Obama’s policy have claimed that there would have been a heightened risk of rape due to so few transgender individuals actually undergoing genital surgery, meaning that few can actually pass as members of the opposite sex.

The former policy, part of the Prison Rape Elimination Act, was issued only days before Obama left office, with a guidance memo that noted that transgender prisoners face an “increased risk of suicide, mental health issues and victimization.”

The current administration has already started reversing pro-transgender policies put in place during the Obama administration, particularly those dealing with K-12 schools, health care and the military.

As reported by the Los Angeles Times, Trump banned the majority of those claiming to be transgender from serving in the armed forces except under “limited circumstances.”

The ruling itself brought with it renewed debate about transgender service in the military and whether the U.S. government can “discriminate” against individuals based on gender.

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And though the new order bans the Pentagon from enlisting new recruits who have undergone gender transition treatment and have the possibility of being kicked out of certain active-duty troops, it does give leeway to those already serving and allows those who don’t have a diagnosis or history of gender dysphoria to freely serve.

The policy, which has been challenged in court, was one that reversed the former administration’s ruling that made it legal for transgender troops to serve openly in the armed forces for the first time in U.S. history.

“It must be remembered,” said the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, that transgender individuals should be allowed “to serve their nation with honor and dignity, volunteering to face extreme hardships, to endure lengthy deployments and separation from family and friends and to willingly make the ultimate sacrifice of their lives if necessary.”

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ASU grad who loves all things reading and writing.
Becky is an ASU grad who uses her spare time to read, write and play with her dog, Tasha. Her interests include politics, religion, and all things science. Her work has been published with ASU's Normal Noise, Phoenix Sister Cities, and "Dramatica," a university-run publication in Romania.
Bachelor of Arts in English/Creative Writing
Topics of Expertise
Politics, Science/Tech, Faith, History, Gender Equality