- If you notify prison officials that you are transgender, and/or have been threatened, officials are legally required to act to protect you. When you enter prison, inform staff you are transgender or believe you are at risk — both verbally and in writing.
- The federal Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) requires prisons and jails to make individualized housing placements for all transgender and intersex prisoners, including when assigning them to male or female facilities. A transgender or intersex prisoner’s own views with respect to their own safety must be given serious consideration when making these determinations.
- Many correctional facilities house transgender prisoners in solitary confinement to protect them from violence. PREA says you cannot be segregated against your will for more than 30 days and if you are in protective custody you must have access to programs, privileges, education and work opportunities to the extent possible.
- Prison and jail staff must evaluate you for gender dysphoria within a reasonable time if you request it. Medical treatment for prisoners diagnosed with gender dysphoria should be delivered according to accepted medical standards.
- Blanket bans on specific types of treatments, such as a ban on hormone therapy or gender confirmation surgery, are unconstitutional.
- Staff should generally allow you gender-appropriate clothing and grooming supplies, and allow you to present yourself consistent with your gender identity, or they may be in violation of the Eighth Amendment.
- Strip searches must be conducted professionally and respectfully. A strip search conducted in full view of other prisoners and staff may violate your privacy rights. If there is no emergency, male staff should not strip-search women (including transgender women) and vice versa. Some jails have policies allowing transgender prisoners to choose the gender of the staff to search them.
- Staff cannot conduct strip and pat-down searches solely to assess your genitals. Staff must be trained to conduct searches of transgender and intersex prisoners in a professional and respectful manner, and in the least intrusive manner possible, consistent with security needs.
- If you request a private shower, PREA requires that officials grant you access.
What to do if you believe your rights might be violated
- Report your concerns or any specific threats to your safety to staff in writing, and also send a copy to the inspector general, the PREA coordinator for the agency with custody over you, and someone outside whom you trust.
- If you are assaulted, file a grievance as soon as possible, though cases of sexual assault may have more flexible time limits on reporting or may have special reporting processes.
- Prisoners who want to file a federal lawsuit about events in jail or prison must first complete the internal appeals process. This means that you need to know the rules of any appeals (or “grievance”) process in your facility, including time limits on filing an appeal after something happens. In most prisons or jails, you will have to file a written complaint on a form that is provided.
- If staff refuse to evaluate you for gender dysphoria or fail to provide you with care, file a grievance and appeal through all levels.
- If you were receiving hormones from a doctor prior to incarceration, have your medical records sent to the medical or health director at your facility.
- If you are placed in protective segregation and do not want to be there, file a grievance and all appeals about your placement. You should also appeal anything that seems unfair about your placement, such as not being able to participate in a hearing, not being told why you were moved to segregation, not being able to participate in programming or obtain a job, or not being told when you can get out.
- If your placement is based on so-called safety concerns and you would feel safer in a women’s facility (as a transgender woman), request such a transfer and file appeals if you do not get one.
- If you are asked to strip down in front of other prisoners and you do not feel comfortable, politely ask to be moved to a separate area.
- If you cannot use a private shower, ask to shower at a different time from other prisoners or in a private area (as the PREA standards require).
- If you do not want to be searched by a staff member of a particular sex, politely ask for a different staff member to search you. In some prisons or jails, you may also be able to get a general order that says you should only be searched by women (if you are a transgender woman).
- Ask for your facility’s official policies related to your circumstances. Sometimes you can find these policies in the prison library.
Black and Pink
614 Columbia Rd.
Dorchester, MA 02125
Just Detention International
3325 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 340
Los Angeles, CA 90010
1900 L St. NW, Suite 601
Washington, DC 20036
National Center for Lesbian Rights
870 Market St., Suite 370
San Francisco, CA 94102
National Center for Transgender Equality
1325 Massachusetts Ave. NW, Suite 700
Washington, DC 20005