Pennsylvania’s transgender prisoner numbers

Kumail Shah

Pennsylvania: Nearly two hundred men doing time in Pennsylvania state prisons for gender nonconformity identify as women. A tiny number of them are requesting a transfer to a women’s jail.

However, the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections claims it does not track data on the number of transgender inmates.

An inmate in Dauphin County Prison in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, who was born a man but identifies as a woman, filed a lawsuit against the facility in November.

The lawsuit alleges that the inmate begged to be placed apart from men, was grabbed by other detainees, and was attacked by guards.

A self-identified transgender woman imprisoned among male offenders reached a $300,000 settlement with the Allegheny County Jail on June 2, according to the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania.

Even though Allegheny County is the state’s second-most populous, this case has nothing to do with the state’s jail system. The city jail may be found in the heart of Pittsburgh.

A group of California women filed a lawsuit against the state in November, saying that a male convict who identifies as a woman had raped a female inmate after being transferred to a women’s jail.

Two female convicts at New Jersey’s sole women’s jail became pregnant after engaging in consensual intercourse with a self-identified transgender woman, correctional authorities said in April.

Pennsylvania Department of Corrections responded to public records requests from The Heritage Foundation’s Oversight Project by stating that just 10 of 193 biological males who say they identify as women requested a transfer to a women’s institution.

According to the information released thus far by the correctional department, five of the ten inmates who requested a transfer had prior convictions for sexual abuse or sex crimes. According to the agency’s answer to The Daily Signal’s Freedom of Information Act request, no one with a sexual crime conviction was moved.

However, in answer to the query of how many male convicts who self-identify as women had at least one conviction for either sexual abuse or sexual assault, the Department of Corrections said: “This information does not exist.”

A spokesperson for the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections, Maria A. Bivens, informed The Daily Signal via email as follows:

Although the DOC has access to all inmates’ criminal records, medical records, disciplinary records, and other information, the format used to keep tabs on transgender inmates do not currently include data about their criminal histories. Therefore, no records that respond to the initial RTKL request have been found.

Bivens stated that Pennsylvania’s correctional system complies with the federal Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003, which explains the low volume of transfer requests.

The following is a provision of that law:

The agency shall consider on a case-by-case basis whether a placement would ensure the inmate’s health and safety and whether the placement would present management or security problems when making housing and programming assignments, including whether to assign a transgender or intersex inmate to a facility for male or female inmates.

The federal statute further specifies that “a transgender or intersex inmate’s own views with respect to his or her own safety should be given substantial consideration.”

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In many ways, California law exceeds that of the United States. The Transgender Respect, Agency, and Dignity Act were approved by the state legislature in 2021 with the intention of providing transgender inmates with additional rights and protections while incarcerated.

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