In the past few years, new laws have passed, mandating the housing of transgender women in all-female prisons. Activists have pushed for these new laws in order to prevent discrimination based on gender identity. But what happened at one New Jersey prison demonstrates that laws like these have brought new challenges for prisons; two women became pregnant in the Edna Mahan Correctional Facility after having sex with transgender prisoners.
Transgender Women Housed in All-Female Prisons
In 2019, a transgender woman identified as Sonia Doe filed a lawsuit in New Jersey, complaining that she had been forced to live in men’s prisons in the state for a year and a half. She was an awarded a settlement of $125,000 in damages, as well as attorneys’ fees ($45,000), and she would not have to face sanctions related to an assault that occurred during that same year. Sonia Doe’s case was part of a larger lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of New Jersey in an attempt to stand up for trans prisoners’ rights, according to Jeanne LoCicero, ACLU legal director. As a result of these lawsuits, Edna Mahan Correctional Facility in Clinton, New Jersey, began housing transgender women in 2021. Currently there are 27 transgenders housed at Edna Mahan and more than 800 women.
Referring to the new policy to allow transgender women to be housed in all-women’s prisons, LoCicero said to NJ.com that the policy is “in line with New Jersey’s strong anti-discrimination laws that prevent discrimination and harassment on the basis of gender identity.”
While other states have also followed the same path in terms of allowing transgender women to be begin to be housed in their women’s facilities, some states have required that the transgender women undergo gender reassignment surgery prior to entering the women’s prisons. According to Kara Dansky, author of “The Abolition of Sex,” 49 states have some form of mandate for prisons to house transgender women in women’s facilities. But Edna Mahan, even though it is the only women’s facility in the state of New Jersey, does not have this requirement for transgender inmates.
And there have been consequences.
For example, Edna Mahan has several allegations against it, citing alleged assault on both cisgender and transgender women. The correctional officers’ union also voiced concerns about the additional issues and stress that the new policy would have on those working in the prison. Unfortunately, the correctional officers were a large part of reports of assault on inmates.
The correctional officers’ union president told NJ.com, “We opposed this policy change believing it would be detrimental to the general population of female inmates being housed at Edna Mahan and also bring added stress to our correctional police officers assigned to this institution.”
Watch Kara Dansky talk about the issue on this YouTube video:
So what lead to the two women becoming pregnant? Read on…