According to an agreement reached Tuesday, the New Jersey Department of Corrections will house inmates based on gender identity, as opposed to the gender assigned to them at birth. The settlement comes after a transgender woman filed a lawsuit in 2019 alleging she was forced to live in men’s prisons and was subjected to verbal and sexual harassment as a result.
Under the new policy, prisoners will be held “with the presumption that the prisoner will be held consistent with their gender identity.” While the department is permitted to override the presumption for reasons including management, safety, or security issues, the policy states that “under no circumstances shall the appointment of a transgender, intersex, or non-binary prisoner be made consistent with their gender identity.” Will not be considered a management or security issue. purely because of their gender identity.”
Prisoners will be held in private cells while their accommodation arrangements are being determined and will have the ability to provide information and input on their housing decisions. All prisoners will have the ability to provide staff with information about their gender identity at any time during their stay in prison.
The policy also states that harassment or discrimination against an inmate’s gender identity is “not acceptable under any circumstances,” and that staff will be required to respect inmates’ pronouns. Gender-affirming assets such as undergarments will be provided, as well as gender-affirming medical care. Security will also be increased for showers and searches for transgender, intersex and non-binary prisoners.
“This policy is just a start and addresses the needs of some of the most vulnerable people in state prisons,” Jean Locicero, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey, said in a statement Tuesday. “Communities across the state are paying attention to this moment in NJDOC history, and in partnership with them, we will continue to work to reduce the number of people in prisons and prisons and to advocate for the human rights of those who are imprisoned. Huh.”
In 2019, a transgender woman filed a civil rights lawsuit under the pseudonym Sonia Doe, citing ten counts of discrimination violations against the New Jersey Department of Corrections and its officers. She alleged that during the 17 months she was incarcerated in the prisons of four different men, she experienced verbal and sexual harassment, with staff members explicitly telling her that she was a man. She further alleged that a doctor at a hospital reduced her testosterone blocker medication by 50%, and that staff members physically assaulted her after a woman requested a transfer to the prison.
Weeks after she filed the lawsuit, she was taken to the Edna Great Women’s Correctional Facility, as requested by her attorneys.
“When I was forced to live in men’s prisons, I was terrified I wouldn’t be able to make it out alive,” Doe said in the ACLU statement. “Those memories still haunt me. Although I still have nightmares about that time, it’s a relief to know that my experience has resulted in the NJDOC adopting enough policy changes, so anyone can feel that horror.” should not be subject to what I survived.”
In addition to the settlement, Doe will receive $125,000 in damages and attorney’s fees. The New Jersey Department of Corrections did not immediately respond to CBS News’ request for comment.
According to the agreement, the changes will be effective from July 1 and will last for at least one year. With Agreement, New JerseySuch as Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts and California, which have similar policies for housing prisoners.