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May 13, 2022

New Jersey will seek changes to transgender inmate policy

It's not clear what will be changed, but the state Department of Corrections wants to ensure inmates are taking steps to medically transition

Government Prisons
Jail cell Ronald W. Erdrich/USA TODAY NETWORK

The New Jersey Department of Corrections plans to change a policy enacted as part of a settlement agreement that requires prisons to house inmates based on gender identity. The agency wants to ensure transgender inmates are taking steps to medically transition. Above, a prison in Abilene, Texas.

The New Jersey Department of Corrections intends to change a policy that requires prisons to house prisoners by their gender identity, acting Corrections Commissioner Victoria Kuhn said Tuesday.

That policy was enacted as part of a settlement agreement that resolved a suit lodged by a transgender woman who was jailed in several men's prisons, but the settlement only requires the department to keep the policy in place for one year from the agreement's date. The case was settled on June 28, 2021.

"Like any policy, we had been reviewing the policy already, and we are working with our legal team along with some of the community stakeholders as well because we are going to be proposing some changes to the policy," Kuhn told the Assembly Budget Committee on Tuesday.

The existing policy drew attention last month after NJ Advance Media reported two women housed at the Edna Mahan Correctional Facility became pregnant after consensual sex with a transgender inmate.

It's not clear how the policy will be changed, though the corrections officers' union wants to ensure transgender inmates are taking steps to medically transition.

William Sullivan, president of New Jersey Policemen's Benevolent Association Local 105, which represents correctional police, said the union would prefer transgender prisoners housed in women's facilities be taking gender transition medication.

Sullivan added the department had engaged transgender corrections officers for recommendations on possible changes.

The American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey and Garden State Equality had pushed for the current policy, saying transgender prisoners housed according to the gender they were assigned at birth can be subjected to daily discrimination, harassment and outright violence.


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