NJ to allow biological males into women’s prisons; settles ACLU lawsuit

Facebook/Prison Fellowship
Facebook/Prison Fellowship

New Jersey will require prisons in the Garden State to house inmates based on their self-declared gender identity instead of biological sex as part of a settlement of a lawsuit filed by a trans-identified male prisoner.

As a result of the settlement in Sonia Doe v. New Jersey Department of Corrections, et al,the NJDOC will allow trans, intersex and non-binary prisoners to be housed in prisons that correspond with the opposite biological sex. 

Reports indicate that Doe was incarcerated in men’s prisons for over 18 months, claims to have been denied female commissary items and was “misgendered” by correctional officers. Doe was transferred to the Edna Mahan Correctional Facility for Women soon after the complaint was filed in August 2019 by the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey. 

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"Defendant New Jersey Department of Corrections has adopted and agrees to maintain in
good faith policies, procedures and practices that ensure the health, safety, and dignity of
transgender, intersex, and non-binary inmates in its custody, including ensuring inmates’ ability to live in line with their gender identity," the settlement agreement reads. 

The department is also paying $45,000 in Doe’s attorney fees and $125,000 in damages as part of the settlement.

ACLU-NJ Staff Attorney Tess Borden said the settlement "puts in place systemic, far-reaching policy changes to recognize and respect the gender identity of people in prison" by providing "housing based on gender identity, use of appropriate pronouns, [and] access to gender-affirming property."

The NJDOC says the updated policy is a positive development.

"While the Department did have existing processes in place, the policy outlined in this settlement is an update to those processes," NJDOC Public Information Officer Chris Carden wrote in an email to NBC News.

"Anyone incarcerated under NJDOC care may at any time provide information regarding their gender identity to the NJDOC. The Department then takes careful measures to ensure they are properly housed in-line with their gender identity and their housing preferences, while ensuring both their safety and the security of the institution. Overall, the steps being taken support the important cultural changes being made throughout the Department."

Leanna DeLorenzo, the New Jersey state contact for the U.S. Chapter of the Women’s Human Rights Campaign, said in an email to The Christian Post that her foremost concern is women's safety.

“When I say woman, I mean an adult human female,"  DeLorenzo said, "not a man playing dress-up and forcing us to feed into his delusions."

"Women are harassed in prisons by correctional officers and go through things with men constantly," she added. "Now they’re allowing men to be housed with women because the man decided he ‘feels’ like a woman. It’s unacceptable."

She contends that being a "woman is not a feeling; it’s a reality."

She further claimed that the institutional mistreatment of women seems to be continuing unabated.

“‘Doe’ said he didn’t have access to women's commissary items. Like what? Tampons? Pads? He doesn’t have a vagina or a uterus. What does he need access to women's items for? Women have a hard enough time having access to their own items. Now a man with a sick fetish not only wants access to our spaces, but he also wants our things,” the New Jersey women’s rights campaigner asserted.

Doe additionally claimed to have been terrified of living in the men’s prison and was haunted by nightmares and bad memories, words DeLorenzo considers “utter lunacy.”

“He doesn’t think about the women who are traumatized by men, and they are afraid they won’t make it out alive being housed with someone stronger and faster than them?" she argued. "I don’t understand why women are penalized and why we must have our spaces invaded."

“This just shows over and over again how women are not cared about in the justice system. You don’t see women rushing to be in men’s prisons the way you see these men rushing to be in women’s prisons. What is the end game anyway? When will this end? When women are being raped and getting pregnant in prison? Is that it? How much more do women have to say no?”

WHRC’s Declaration on Women’s Sex-based Rights states in Article 8 section B that single-sex provision must be extended to women in critical spaces like rape support services, specialist police investigation facilities and shelters where women and children go to flee domestic abuse. 

“It should also include all other services within which single-sex provisions promote the physical safety, privacy, and dignity of women and girls. These include prisons, health services and hospital wards, substance misuse rehabilitation centres, accommodation for the homeless, toilets, showers and changing rooms, and any other enclosed space where individuals reside or may be in a state of undress,” the declaration reads.

"Single-sex facilities designed to meet the needs of women and girls should be at least equal in availability and quality to those provided to men and boys. These facilities should not include men who claim to have female ‘gender identities.’"

New Jersey’s move is the latest in a growing push in state prison systems nationwide prioritizing “gender identity.”

In May, journalist Abigail Shrier reported in the Wall Street Journal that 264 male prisoners had self-declared a “nonmale identity” and formally requested to be moved to the female correctional facilities after California enacted a policy in January allowing state prison inmates to transfer to women's prisons based on "individual preference."

Only seven female prisoners had requested to transfer to the men’s prison, according to the author of the 2020 book Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters.

Washington state has a similar law on the books, Shrier observed. 

And if the U.S. Congress passes the Equality Act to codify gender identity discrimination protection into federal law, this public policy could be applied to prison facilities nationwide.

As of late May, the California Department of Corrections had approved 26 males who claim nonmale identities to be transferred. A spokeswoman emphasized that the transfer process is carried out on a case-by-case basis. But thus far, no one had been denied such a request. 

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