Keep Prisons Single Sex was established in 2020 in the UK to campaign for the rights of women in prison to single-sex accommodation and same-sex searching. We also campaign for data on offending to be recorded by sex throughout the criminal justice system.
We quickly expanded our campaign to the USA to address concerns about the escalating numbers of male prisoners being moved into women’s prisons.
AIMS & OBJECTIVES
Federal regulation (which generally also applies at the state level due to threat of withholding federal funding) provides for cross-sex prison housing for “transgender” inmates upon consideration “on a case-by-case basis whether a placement would ensure the inmate’s health and safety, and whether the placement would present management or security problems.”
Many states and municipalities have passed their own laws, have established policies or have entered settlement agreements in litigation which provide even lower standards for inmates (almost entirely male) who wish to be moved to women’s prisons and jails.
We believe that this is wrong and that no male prisoner should ever be housed in a women’s prison. We believe that to house any male prisoner with women is a violation of the 8th Amendment of the United States Constitution which protects against “cruel and unusual” punishment.
We believe that female offenders should only be searched by officers of the same sex. Strip searches by the opposite sex have been found to violate the 8th Amendment.
Additionally, historically, as an exception to employment discrimination laws, incarceration facilities were able to restrict hiring for such positions to the same sex as the inmates based on a “bona fide occupational qualification.” The ability to maintain this restriction is being eroded by some state laws which require treating applicants and employees as the gender with which they identify, rather than the sex they are and, further, by federal EEOC guidance issues in the wake of EO 13988, Preventing and Combating Discrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity or Sexual Orientation. Should the 2021 Equality Act pass (it has passed the House and remains pending before the Senate), the “gender identity” protection in the law would render it near impossible for this restriction to be maintained in order to protect female offenders.
We believe allowing any male officer to strip search female offenders would be a gross violation of the rights of those women. Further, requiring female officers to search male prisoners because of their self-declared “gender identity,” is a form of sexual harassment and a violation of the officers’ employment rights.
We believe in the importance of data that is disaggregated by sex. This is important for data analysis and for service planning and development. We believe that when a male is arrested, commits a crime or is imprisoned, biological sex should be recorded. However, this doesn’t always happen and it is becoming more and more impossible to identify where data is incorrect. Except for two states, all others provide a mechanism to change one’s sex on birth certificates. Similarly, one can change this information on drivers’ licenses as well. As of 2021, U.S. passports can now reflect self-declared “gender identity” even if this does not match a current birth certificate or drivers’ license. Different jurisdictions rely on these documents either to record crimes or in housing offenders. This means that male crime, and some men’s housing, is hidden in the female data.
Varied groups of male prisoners may be vulnerable and at risk of assault in male incarceration facilities. Vulnerable men may include those who are: older, younger, disabled, gay, or effeminate. All these male prisoners, as well as those who identify as transgender, have the right to be safe in prison. We believe that the solution must be found within the male incarceration facilities and housing them in women’s prisons should never be an option.
WHAT WE DO
- Our campaign includes work in Congress, state legislatures, the federal Bureau of Prisons, in policy and in the media.
- Our goals in Congress include:
— ensuring the current iteration (2021) of the so-called Equality Act does not pass the Senate. This Act would almost certainly result in “gender identity,” rather than sex, being the determining factor in housing inmates.
— pursuing amendment to the Prison Rape Elimination Act, so as to address current regulations which permit cross-sex housing in prisons.
- Through our consultation submissions we ensure that the needs and rights of women in prison are brought to the attention of state legislatures contemplating changes in their state law, federal and state prison systems grappling with placement issues and other organizations and statutory bodies.
- We endeavor to track the most comprehensive government data through federal and state Freedom of Information Act requests. We have collaborated with other campaign groups to obtain nation-wide inmate data and state-specific information. We obtain data at the federal level tracking BOP’s responses to Executive Orders and congressional “lobbying.”
- We are called upon by other campaign groups, working both in the areas of prison reform and women’s rights, to provide specialist input.