Connecticut will become the first state in the nation where transgender inmates will, as a matter of policy, be housed according to their gender identity.
The law, signed by Gov. Daniel Malloy (D), also ensures that transgender inmates are treated according to their gender identity in other ways, such as being searched by corrections officers who match their gender identity, being addressed with proper pronouns, and being guaranteed access to clothing and toiletries that match their gender identity.
“This is a really big deal,” David McGuire, the executive director of the ACLU of Connecticut, told the Associated Press. “It is, in our mind, the most protective transgender policy and law in the country.”
The provisions for transgender inmates passed as part of a larger bill dealing with the rights of inmates, including those who are pregnant. Those provisions go into effect July 1 and are supported by Connecticut Department of Correction Commissioner Scott Semple.
Under the bill, to be placed according to gender identity, an inmate must receive either be diagnosed with gender dysphoria, or had their gender marker legally changed. Their “presumptive placement” can also be changed if prison officials determine it could create problems at a particular facility.
The state previously grappled with the lack of clear policies for transgender inmates after a transgender teenager was placed in an adult prison for women because the state could not figure out where to place her.
The girl, known as “Jane Doe,” was determined by DCF to be too dangerous to be housed with juveniles, but rather than place her in solitary confinement, she was housed in a building with no adult prisoners. She was eventually transferred to a residential treatment facility in Massachusetts.
The federal Bureau of Justice Statistics estimates that there are 3,200 transgender inmates in the nation’s prisons and jails.
Jennifer Levi, the transgender rights project director with GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders, told the AP that Connecticut’s law can serve as a model for other states wishing to treat inmates according to their gender identity.
The move comes just as the Trump administration rolls back Obama-era protections for transgender inmates. Under new guidelines in The Bureau of Prisons’ Transgender Offender Manual, transgender inmates will largely be housed according to their assigned sex at birth. In rare cases, where an inmate has demonstrated “significant progress” in their transition, based on their medical history, they may be housed according to gender identity, but only if their presence would not create a disruption.