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Jayapal, Nadler Call on GAO to Take Steps to Improve Conditions for Incarcerated Trans People

WASHINGTON – U.S. Representatives Pramila Jayapal (WA-07) and Jerrold Nadler (NY-12) led more than thirty lawmakers in calling on the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to examine the prison conditions transgender individuals experience to inform actions to improve the treatment of transgender people in incarceration.

“Reports from prisons and jails routinely unearth pervasive harassment, sexual assault, and other forms of physical violence against trans people perpetrated by both other incarcerated people and facility staff,” wrote the lawmakers. “The GAO has an opportunity to shed light on this critical issue.”

In one survey conducted by National Center for Transgender Equality, one in five trans people reported being assaulted by correctional staff and 22 percent reported being assaulted by other incarcerated people in the past year. In addition to the threat of physical violence, trans people also face significant barriers to medical care during incarceration, with more than one-third of incarcerated trans people reporting being denied their hormone replacement therapy in the past year.

The treatment of trans individuals in jails and prisons not only raises moral and ethical concerns, but also significant legal concerns which must be addressed.

Specifically, the members are calling on the GAO to:

  • Provide a breakdown of the transgender jail and prison population by gender and whether they are held in a men’s or a women’s facility in alignment with their gender.
  • Analyze incarceration practices and policies of prisons and jails regarding housing transgender people and evaluate their alignment with federal guidance from the Bureau of Prisons.
  • Survey the housing preferences of transgender people.
  • Provide the number and success rate of petitions for transfer to a facility of another gender.
  • Estimate the rate of sexual assault and physical violence against incarcerated transgender people.
  • Estimate the incidence of solitary confinement of trans people.
  • Estimate the rate of disciplinary actions taken against trans people.
  • Evaluate access to gender-affirming medical care and routine medical care for incarcerated trans people
  • Evaluate access to gender-affirming commissary items and clothing, including toiletries, undergarments, etc.

The full letter can be read here.

The letter was also signed by Becca Balint (VT-At Large), Nanette Diaz Barragán (CA-44), Suzanne Bonamici (OR-01), Jamaal Bowman (NY-16), Cori Bush (MO-01), Greg Casar (TX-35), Sean Casten (IL-06), Judy Chu (CA-28), Jasmine Crockett (TX-30), Mark DeSaulnier (CA-10), Adriano Espaillat (NY-13),  Jesús “Chuy” García (IL-04), Robert Garcia (CA-42), Jimmy Gomez (CA-34), Raúl M. Grijalva (AZ-07), Sheila Jackson Lee (TX-18), Sara Jacobs (CA-51), Henry C. “Hank” Johnson, Jr. (GA-04), Sydney Kamlager-Dove (CA-37), Barbara Lee (CA-12), Summer Lee (PA-12), James P. McGovern (MA-02), Gwen Moore (WI-04), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY-14), Donald M. Payne, Jr. (NY-10), Mark Pocan (WI-02), Katie Porter (CA-47), Ayanna Pressley (MA-07), Linda Sánchez (CA-38), Janice Schakowsky (IL-09), Mark Takano (CA-39), Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ-12), Nikema Williams (GA-05), and Frederica Wilson (FL-24).