Arkansas Republican Senator Tom Cotton introduced the “Preventing Violence Against Female Inmates Act” on Wednesday, which would not allow for males who identify as female to be placed in women’s prisons.
“President Biden’s plan to house male and female prisoners together will put women in danger. Documented cases prove that placing men—including ones who ‘identify’ as female—in women’s prisons puts female inmates at increased risk of sexual assault. My bill will stop the president’s ill-conceived plan and keep men and women separated in federal prison,” Cotton said in a statement.
Backers of the bill included Heritage Action, the American Principles Project, and Concerned Women for America LCA.
The bill would block federal prisons from housing males in female prisons for reasons of gender identity. The language says that the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) should “use the biological sex of person charged with or convicted of offenses against the United States in making determinations regarding housing such persons.”
It also notes that prisons should “not co-locate in detention facilities persons charged with or convicted of offenses against the United States if those persons are not of the same biological sex, unless the Bureau of Prisons co-locates such persons without regard to their purported gender identity.”
Under the bill, state prisons would not be eligible for certain federal funding if they housed members of the opposite sex together.
The bill would not prevent prisons from making separate housing exclusively available on the bases of gender identity “as long as they are not housed with inmates of the opposite sex.”
It also states that “a state or federal institution would still be allowed to use short-term detention cells in a courthouse to house both male and female prisoners during a trial in which they are both witnesses, subject to normal security considerations to protect all detainees.”
Cotton’s bill may conflict with what Biden has said in the past regarding the issue. Biden has stated that “in prison, your sexual identity is defined by what you say, not what the prison says.”
The policy on housing transgender prisoners has become more contested with reports on if and how much Biden would change from the Trump era policy that said prisons should “use biological sex as the initial determination” for housing.
That policy is being reviewed by the Justice Department, and would apply to the approximately 1,200 prisoners who identify as transgender.
“BOP is in the process of reviewing the current version of its policy regarding transgender inmates, which was developed in order to meet the community standard of medical and mental health care, appropriately manage and support the offenders, and meet legal requirements as determined by case law, statutes and federal regulations,” a Justice Department spokesman told Axios in September.
Some states, like Rhode Island, Washington, Massachusetts, and Connecticut allow gender identity to be the determining factor in where a prisoner is housed.
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