Monday, May 6, 2013

Public Accommodation of Transgendered Individuals in the Prison System

My blog posting topic was on housing and public accommodation.  After today's discussion on jailing of gay victims of domestic violence, I was curious about how transgendered individuals are treated within the prison system.  Generally speaking, individuals are held in cells based on their biological sex as determined by "stop and frisk" policies.  Harassment and often assault have arisen from this discrimination, particularly M-F transgendered individuals housed in male prisons.  However in 2012 the LAPD, after receiving recommendations from the Transgender Law Center, announced changes to its policies in regards to the treatment of transgendered inmates including providing inmates with hormone treatments as well as addressing them by their preferred gender pronoun and name, if different from their legal name.  While the police chief recognized potential resistance from officers, he believed in the long term implementation of these revised policies. More information on the LAPD statement can be found here. Another interesting piece I found, which I literally would not have believed had it not been published by the New York Times, described a 2012 case in Massachusetts where a federal Judge ordered an inmate to be given sex reassignment surgery. The judge ruled that denial of surgery to fix extreme gender identity disorder would be "cruel and unusual punishment" in violation of the 8th amendment. The original article can be found here and a 2013 update in the Boston Globe can be found here. I hope that the extremity of this latter case does not undermine the gravity of reforms needed but rather further highlights future fundamental changes to the current prison system to accommodate transgendered individuals.  I found the array of materials fascinating and am curious to see how such recent prison reforms play out and if they are successful and able to reduce harassment and abuse.

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