Statement in support of S. 3481,
the Preventing Violence Against Female Inmates Act of 2022
We are opposed to the housing of males in female prisons, a practice initiated by some states such as California* and Washington, and being considered in Maryland and New York. The Biden Administration is also promoting this policy, as revealed in a leaked DOD proposal which has ordered the Attorney General to “within 30 days of the date of this order, begin the process of identifying any necessary changes to the [Bureau of Prisons] Transgender Offender Manual … to enable BOP to designate individuals to facilities in accordance with their gender identity.” In addition, this dangerous policy would be enshrined in national law if the so-called Equality Act in its present form were to be passed by Congress.
We are concerned about the safety of women being housed with biological males, many of whom are sexual predators, which is currently the practice in several states. The ACLU has fought disclosure under public records requests filed by women’s rights attorneys representing women inmates housed with male offenders in Washington.
Little to no vetting of male prisoners who self-ID as transgender and wish to be housed with women is currently being undertaken. This fails to protect imprisoned women from the dangers of rape by men identifying as women.
Rape of women by guards is already a terrible reality in women’s prisons, and women are now reporting rape by cellmates with male genitalia, despite many of these men serving terms for rape or child molestation convictions. Sexual assault is “cruel and unusual punishment” and is therefore unconstitutional, but women who complain of rape, by guards or by cellmates, are often silenced, punished, and their rights trampled.
The Green Alliance for Sex-Based Rights supports Senator Tom Cotton’s bill, S. 3481, the Preventing Violence Against Female Inmates Act of 2022 which requires that prisoners be housed based on their sex. We do so while expressing our concerns for an exception made to permit the Bureau of Prisons to co-locate men with women, “if done so without regard to their purported gender identity” as this phrasing is somewhat vague and could be misused to undermine the safety of female inmates.
The bill expressly differentiates between males and females based on sex, not on “gender identity”. It defines sex as “the biological classification of male and female in the context of reproductive potential or capacity, as indicated by sex chromosomes, naturally occurring sex hormones, gonads, and nonambiguous internal and external genitalia present at birth, without regard to a person’s psychological, chosen, or subjectively experienced sense of identity or gender.” The material reality of biological sex has always determined whether inmates are housed in women’s or men’s prisons, but this policy needs to be clearly codified in order to protect women from male violence. This bill would ensure that housing would be based on sex, supersedes laws enacted at the state level, and denies funding to any state that doesn’t certify its adherence. For these reasons, we support S. 3481 and urge broad support for its passage.
* The California Department of Corrections is currently being sued by Women’s Liberation Front in Chandler v. CDCR for civil rights violations.
We urge readers to watch for a forthcoming publication by Keep Prisons Single Sex for a full description of the issues related to women’s safety in U.S. prisons.