On Friday, the Trump administration eliminated the Obama administration’s protections over transgender inmates, putting a vulnerable population back at risk for sexual abuse/assault. Housing and bathroom assignments were originally to match up with gender identity, but now will be appropriated by biological sex.
The initiative under former President Barack Obama also provided guidance on the increased risk of suicide, mental health issues and victimization of transgender inmates.
A lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court by four evangelical Christian women in a Texas prison in 2016 challenged the Obama guidelines and accused transgender inmates of crimes against them. The lead plaintiff, Rhonda Fleming, an ardent Trump supporter and Black Republican, said in a statement last year: “My bodily rights are being violated by the Defendants housing men in the prison. I am being humiliated and degraded every day so that men that identify as women can be comfortable.”
However, when the suit was filed, the Bureau of Prison failed to find sufficient evidence of the allegations.
Now, the protection of transgender inmates has been removed under Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III’s Bureau of Prisons Director appointee, Mark Inch.
Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, said in a statement: “Transgender people already know the Trump-Pence administration is dedicated to stripping away our rights. Their cruelty is only made more evident as they continually go after the most vulnerable among us.”
The four women, Rhonda Fleming, Jeanette Driever, Charlsa Little and Brenda Rhames, represented by Christian group Alliance Defending Freedom, claimed their rights had been violated under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. But they were not housed in the same units of the Federal Medical Center, Carswell and Federal Prison Camp, Bryan, as the transgender inmates.
The National Center for Transgender Equality officially condemned the decision Friday, saying it was “in direct defiance of the Prison Rape Elimination Act, which mandates prison officials must screen all individuals at admission and upon transfer to assess their risk of experiencing abuse.” Additionally, “the DOJ’s own data shows transgender inmates are at risk for suffering sexual violence at a disproportionate rate.”
But facts don’t seem to matter here at all.