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Crucial Revisions to Federal Prison Guidelines Will Offer Protections for Incarcerated Transgender People

  • January 21, 2022

Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., January 21, 2022 — JDI applauds the recent revisions to the federal prison system’s guidelines on housing transgender people. Published last week on the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) website, the guidelines include safeguards to ensure the safety of transgender people in custody, closely matching — and in some ways exceeding — rules that were put in place in 2017. Crucially, the new BOP rules rescind virtually all of the harmful changes to the guidelines that were inserted in 2018 under the Trump Administration.

“The new guidelines revise a dangerous set of policies, and have the potential to begin dismantling the climate of transphobia that thrives behind bars,” said Linda McFarlane, Executive Director of Just Detention International. “The failure of U.S. prisons to protect transgender people behind bars is shameful. More than one third of transgender people in detention are sexually abused in any given year. Many more are harassed and humiliated, often on a daily basis. With these revisions, BOP’s guidelines can be a valuable tool for protecting their safety and dignity. But the real test of BOP’s commitment to ending this abuse will be in ensuring the guidelines are implemented swiftly and meaningfully.”

Among several important updates, the new guidelines restore the recommendation that officials consider transgender people’s gender identity when making housing placements. By contrast, the prior version advised prison officials to take into account a person’s “biological sex,” a harmful and transphobic practice that hamstrung officials’ ability to place people in the safest possible housing according to their professional judgment. In addition, the new guidelines explicitly prohibit the common practice of intentionally misgendering transgender people in prison, including by using incorrect pronouns. The guidelines also affirm the right of transgender people to be pat searched by a staff person of the same gender identity, and provide a pathway for transgender people to receive appropriate medical care while incarcerated, including gender-affirming surgery.


Just Detention International is a health and human rights organization that seeks to end sexual abuse in all forms of detention.