Examining Hawaii and the Protection of Transgender Inmates in Prison

On paper, at least, Hawaii is doing everything right in how it treats transgender inmates in the state’s prison system, according to an article by Rui Kaneya, published in Civil Beat, who asks, whether it is enough.

Trans Hawaii Civil Beat
Activists and allies with Hawaii’s transgender community flank Gov. David Ige at a signing ceremony for House Bill 631, which makes it easier for transgender individuals to modify their birth certificates to agree with their gender identity.

According to the piece, which incorporates great visuals showing from Hawaii:

Under the state’s policy, the Hawaii Department of Public Safety cannot decide where to place transgender inmates based only on their anatomy; it must make an individualized assessment that takes into account each inmate’s gender identity and personal concerns about safety.

The policy mirrors the guidelines under the Prison Rape Elimination Act — a federal statute that established special protections for transgender inmates, recognizing them as an especially vulnerable population whose placement should be considered carefully.

But advocates worry that something is amiss in Hawaii’s actual practices: The state currently houses 29 transgender inmates — all of them at facilities corresponding to their gender at birth.

“The idea that none of them says they feel safest to be housed in a facility based on their gender identity is very unlikely.” — Chris Daley, deputy executive director, Just Detention International

“Even if you have a policy that’s PREA compliant, there’s something wrong with your implementation,” said Chris Daley, deputy executive director of the Los Angeles-based Just Detention International. “With 29 people — the idea that none of them says they feel safest to be housed in a facility based on their gender identity is very unlikely.”

Joanna Cifredo, racial and economic justice policy analyst at the National Center for Transgender Equality, questioned whether the needs of transgender inmates are properly assessed.

“Anytime jurisdictions report that 100 percent of their inmates are housed according to sex assigned at birth, it begs a question of how they are assessing their inmates,” Cifredo said. “It’s important to ask how the question was formulated to ask the inmates about their safety. Formulating the question as, ‘Would you feel safer in men’s or women’s facility?’ — presenting it as an option — would be more helpful.”

The article is a worthy read…. HERE.


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