New York Democrats reintroduced legislation Wednesday that would permit male felons to be jailed with women in the event that they identify accordingly.
Assembly Bill A709 is an updated version of the "Gender Identity Respect Dignity and Safety Act" sponsored by assemblywoman Nily Rozic last session, which appears to have fizzled out in committee. There was a corresponding bill in the state Senate.
The act, co-sponsored by assembly members Emily Gallagher, Jessica Gonzalez-Rojas, Charles Lavine, and Jo Anne Simon, requires that criminals imprisoned in state and local correctional facilities who claim to "have a gender identity different from their assigned sex at birth be addressed and have access to commissary items, clothing and other materials that are consistent with the person's gender identity."
For instance, a biological male with his male genitals intact must be provided with a tampon in the event that he has requested one and has also stated he identifies as a woman.
Should the bill pass, correctional officers would be required to address transsexual, "gender nonconforming, nonbinary, or intersex" convicts "in a manner that most closely aligns with such person's gender identity, including the name and pronouns specified by that person."
The preferred name in question need not correspond with the name on the convict's government-issued identification.
If a male convict identifies as a woman, he would also have "the right" to be searched by a female correctional officer or staff member.
Prisoners are to be given so-called "affirming medical care" to maintain their "sex characteristics," including, but not limited to, hormone treatments and post-op drugs, if so desired.
Perhaps most controversially, the bill states that criminals must be "placed in a correctional facility with persons of the gender that most closely aligns with such person's self-attested gender identity unless the person opts out of such placement."
To evidence their mental severance of biological sex from gender, a convict need only say so, although a diagnosis of gender dysphoria or a "variation in their sex characteristics" are also valid.
Complaints by other prisoners who do not wish to be housed with a member of the opposite sex (e.g., real women) will be ignored. However, the commissioner could overcome the placement if "there is clear and convincing evidence that such person presents a current danger of committing gender-based violence against others."
The feminist activist group Keep Prisons Single Sex USA noted on Twitter that this exception to the proposed rule sets a high provability standard for the likelihood of re-offense and that the phrasing of "current danger" as opposed to historical danger would ensure that a man who previously abused women could still be jailed with female prisoners.
Keep Prisons Single Sex USA added that "if a male inmate does not present a 'current danger of committing gender-based violence,' but engages in misconduct towards female inmates, like sexual harassment," he would not be returned to a men's prison.
A coalition of transsexual activist and leftist groups penned a letter to members of the state House and Senate in May 2022, suggesting that New York "has not done enough for our community members experiencing incarceration."
This coalition of social constructivists suggested that a "person's genital status" should not be factored into decisions over what type of facility a convict should be assigned to.
The letter suggested that transsexual convicts "are subjected to daily misgendering, abuse, and other inhumane treatment."
According to the LGBT activist organization Equality New York, this bill would be a check against a purported trend in the New York State criminal justice system of transsexual criminals being refused basic rights.
The ACLU of New York claimed that this bill would keep transsexuals safe.
Not all are optimistic about the prospect of women's prisons being flooded with men.
Amanda Stulman of Keep Prisons Single Sex USA wrote to the bill's sponsors on Thursday, noting, "This Bill provides that, unless they opt out, fully genitally-intact, sexually-functioning incarcerated males are presume eligible to be housed in women's prison if they assert – at any time – a gender identity other than 'male.'"
Extra to noting that the bill is opaque about what it means by "gender," as in its reference to "gender-based violence," Stulman argued the legislation would incentivize men to request cross-sex housing.
Under the law, if a transsexual's request for transfer is denied, he can initiate proceedings for "injunctive relief and damages, including reasonable attorney fees."
Stulman suggested, "These terms invite declarations of 'gender identity' differing from one's sex with the prospect of (a) being awarded placement in a women's incarceration facility; (b) a monetary reward; (c) attorney fees paid by the state."
The law, according to Stulman, may also run afoul of women's rights, particularly those with deeply-held, Constitutionally-protected religious beliefs requiring that they not be around naked men.
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