⚪ NJ trans inmate policy has flip-flopped

⚪ Proposed bill would base on gender ID alone

⚪ Prison officials have final say, presently

TRENTON — Where to house New Jersey inmates who are transgender has become a contentious issue over the past few years — with no easy solution in sight.

In the summer of 2021, a policy required the Department of Corrections to house inmates based on their gender identity, New Jersey Monitor reported.

It was part of a case settlement with the American Civil Liberties Union, representing a trans inmate who said she dealt with discrimination, harassment and violence while being forced to live among male inmates.

During the settlement-enacted policy, at least two inmates became pregnant after having sex with a trans inmate, New Jersey 101.5 reported.

When the policy expired in 2022, it changed to a less clear one.

Incarcerated people now have been given a “rebuttable presumption” to be housed according to their gender identity, The Appeal reported last year.

Prison officials have the final decision, based on factors that include “reproductive considerations.”

In January, lawmakers proposed a measure to base prison assignments on declared gender identity.

But it wasn't the first time. The bill has not gone any further than introduction for the past three legislative sessions.

EDNA MAHAN PRISON trans inmates protest NJ(Google Maps, Canva)
(Google Maps, Canva)

Scandal-plagued NJ prison slowly closing

Uncertainty of where to house transgender, intersex and non-binary inmates has been playing out as the state’s only all-women’s prison is being shut down after years of abuse scandals.

In 2021, Gov. Phil Murphy announced that Edna Mahan Correctional Facility in Hunterdon County would be permanently closed.

Months earlier, charges were filed against more than a dozen correctional officers in connection with brutal lockdown assaults over a one-night span.

Over two years later, just the first phase of that shutdown was completed.

Read More: Closing Edna Mahan NJ women’s prison is underway 

As of November, minimum security inmates were moved to a satellite unit about 5 miles away, which was housing 176 inmates on an interim basis.

The main facility at Edna Mahan remained open for the medium and maximum-security population.

NJ trans inmates (Canva, Townsquare Media) gender affirming surgery in prison
(Canva, Townsquare Media)

Gender-affirming surgeries for NJ inmates

Another factor in the situation is how far transgender inmates have transitioned.

The total incarcerated population in state prisons is 14,050.

As of last year, roughly 100 inmates had a diagnosis on record that involves “gender identity,” based on information supplied to the DOC by Rutgers University Correctional Health Care.

According to NJ Monitor reporting, the union representing correctional officers — New Jersey Policemen Benevolent Association Local 105 — says trans inmates should start taking gender transition medication before being housed with female inmates.

Some inmates have undergone what is commonly referred to as gender-affirming surgeries while being incarcerated. Last year, a New Jersey 101.5 report confirmed that four such surgical procedures had been done that fiscal year.

RELATED: NJ spent $351K in 2023 on inmates' gender affirming surgery

NJ prison transfer (Google Maps, Canva)
(Google Maps, Canva)

“The New Jersey Department of Corrections supports the rights of incarcerated people to seek medical treatment for conditions related to gender identity and sexual health, and provides appropriate physical and mental health care deemed medically necessary by health care providers,” the Department of Corrections previously said in a written statement.

Rutgers University Correctional Health Care provides mental health and sex offender-specific treatment services to inmates, residents and parolees under the supervision of the DOC, the Juvenile Justice Commission and the State Parole Board.

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