Most jurisdictions have guidelines used to make case-by-case decisions on how to house transgender inmates.
Transgender and gender diverse inmates housed with cisgender men have often been victims of assault, battery, sexual assault, and murder. For this reason these inmates are often housed separately.
- In 2013, trans inmate Carmen Guerrero was tortured and murdered in California men’s prison Kern Valley State Prison during the first 8 hours of being housed with cellmate Miguel Crespo.
- Guerrero was convicted of second degree murder in the 1995 stabbing of romantic partner Mary Perkins while Perkins‘ teen child was home.
- In 2020, trans inmate Penélope Díaz Ramírez was beaten and hanged to death in Puerto Rico men’s prison Bayamón Correctional Complex.
- In 2022, trans inmate Kaushal Niroula was killed at the Cois Byrd Detention Center while being housed with Rodney Sanchez.
- Niroula was awaiting retrial in the murder of Clifton Lambert, a 74-year-old retiree who was fatally stabbed in his Palm Springs home in 2008.
Cisgender women housed with transgender and gender diverse inmates have also reported violence.
- In 2019, a cisgender woman accused transgender inmate Janiah Monroe of sexual assault.
- Monroe was serving time for second-degree murder, attempted murder, aggravated battery, and attempted aggravated arson. Monroe also killed cellmate Kimani Muhammad at age 17.
- In 2017, serial sex offender Karen White was awaiting trial for rape at woman’s facility HMP New Hall. White then committed two indecent assaults against other prisoners. The Prison Service later apologized.
- White previously was convicted of gross indecency with a child in 2001 and rape in 2003.
Consensual sexual activity
Cisgender prisoners with the capacity to bear children have sometimes gotten pregnant while in custody, usually from a conjugal visit or from illegal sexual contact with a prison employee. In the United States, incarcerated people have historically had access to abortion procedures if they chose, although after the 2022 Supreme Court Dobbs ruling, laws now vary state by state. Pregnant prisoners in the US can also choose to carry the pregnancy to term, after which the infant is removed from the prison setting.
Transgender prisoners who still have the capacity to reproduce can engage in sexual activity with other inmates that can result in pregnancy. There have been no documented cases to date of trans men housed in men’s facilities getting pregnant from other inmates.
- In 2023, Scottish inmate Paris Green was moved from Scotland’s Cornton Vale prison to the women’s unit at HMP Edinburgh after reports that Green was having consensual sex with other inmates.
- In 2013 Green and two accomplices tied up and beat Robert Shankland to death.
- In 2022, an unnamed transgender inmate was reportedly moved from HMP Bronzefield, in Ashford, Surrey to the transgender wing at HMP Downview after having consensual sex with another inmate.
- In 2019, Kayleigh Woods was moved from HMP Hewell in Worcestershire back to HMP Gartree in Leicestershire after having consensual sex with an inmate.
- Woods and romantic partner were convicted of tying up and murdering their roommate Bethany Hill in 2016.
There is at least one case where a trans woman housed in women’s facilities has impregnated other prisoners.
- In 2022, New Jersey transgender inmate Demi Minor impregnated two other inmates while housed at Edna Mahan Correctional Facility for women. Minor was then transferred to Garden State Youth Correctional Facility for men aged 18 to 30.
- In 2011, at age 16, Minor stabbed former foster father Theotis Butts 27 times after being confronted while burglarizing Butts’s home.
Concerns about potential violence
Anti-trans activists like Kate Coleman of the website Keep Prisons Single Sex, members of the banned subreddit r/thisneverhappens, and anonymous contributors to the Trans Crime UK website try to use outliers and hypotheticals about transgender inmates to attack the trans rights movement.
Several high-profile cases, usually involving trans women and transfeminine people who have been convicted of violence against cisgender women or girls, have been used as hypotheticals.
- American transgender inmate Dana Rivers is housed in a women’s prison, which led to protests.
- Rivers was convicted in 2022 of murdering a lesbian couple and their adult son because one victim tried to leave the Deviants motorcycle club, where Rivers was the enforcer.
Since 2021, California has allowed about 50 transgender or nonbinary inmates to transfer to women’s prisons without adverse reports.
In Scotland, journalists learned that 16 trans inmates have been housed at the country’s only women’s prison.
- Scottish inmate Isla Bryson was remanded to women’s prison HMP Cornton Vale, leading to protests.
- Bryson was convicted in 2023 of raping one woman in 2016 and a second woman in 2019.
- Scottish inmate Katie Dolatowski was moved to Cornton Vale in 2022, leading to protests.
- Dolatowski had been convicted of child sex offenses and later held for violating a restriction of liberty order.
- Some feared problems after inmate Jessica Winfield was moved from men’s facility HMP Whitemoor to HMP Bronzefield after getting bottom surgery.
- Winfield was convicted of raping two women in 1995.
- Some feared British inmate Lexi-Rose Crawford would be housed in a women’s prison.
- Crawford raped a friend shortly after completing a previous prison sentence for rape of a minor.
- Some feared British inmate Zara Jade would be housed in a women’s prison.
- Jade was sentenced to nine years in 2023 for attacking a transgender roommate. Jade pled guilty to wounding with intent to do grievous bodily harm, robbery, fraud, and false imprisonment. Jade was scheduled to serve at a men’s prison. Jade was previously jailed for five years for rape and other sexual offenses committed in 1998 and 2013.
Ireland reviews transgender inmate housing assignments on a case by case basis.
- Some feared Irish inmate Barbie Kardashian would be housed in a women’s prison. Kardashian is segregated in a wing of Limerick Prison with another transgender prisoner and two cisgender women who killed children.
- Kardashian has 16 convictions for threats to kill, sexual assault, assault causing harm, assault, and criminal damage.
Some facilities offer administrative segregation (AdSeg), or separate housing for trans inmates within the prison to reduce the likelihood of violence. Some facilities group all sex and gender minorities in such housing, so gay and bi men are held with trans women.
Special housing unit (SHU)
In some facilities transgender inmates are held in small pods or held in solitary confinement in a secure housing unit, a sort of jail within a prison.
Prevention of Injury confinement
Transgender inmate Chelsea Manning was held for nearly a year in Virginia at Marine Corps Brig, Quantico under Prevention of Injury (POI) status—which entailed de facto solitary confinement and other restrictions. POI is usually reserved for people who might commit suicide or other serious self-harm. Manning was then transferred to Joint Regional Correctional Facility at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas until the sentence was commuted.
Secure treatment facilities
Some violent trans inmates are held in secure treatment facilities. This is common among sex offenders, and they are often categorized as patients instead of inmates.
Some jurisdictions use sexually violent person (SVP) or similar designations as a legal and medical category. Such people may be held indefinitely under a civil commitment after they have completed their sentence. These commitments usually happen in secure treatment facilities.
A control unit, sometimes called a supermax, is used for long-term administrative segregation of extremely dangerous inmates. Terrorist Ted Kaczynski, who sought trans healthcare in his twenties, was held at ADX Florence, a control unit supermax, before being transferred to Federal Medical Center Butner, eventually dying there in 2023.
Some anti-crime activists advocate expanding the scope of capital crimes to include sexual assault and other forms of aggravated assault against women, children, the elderly, the disabled, or other vulnerable populations. In Asia and the Middle East, several countries classify rape as a capital crime. Some US states considered rape a capital crime until Supreme Court rulings in 1977 and 2008 struck down those laws.
Prisoners awaiting execution are typically held in separate housing with increased security. In 2023, trans inmate Amber McLaughlin was executed in Missouri. McLaughlin was sentenced to death following conviction for first-degree murder, forcible rape, and armed criminal action in the 2003 death of romantic partner Beverly Guenther. While awaiting execution, McLaughlin sat on Missouri’s death row. Three other trans women and one trans man were on death row in the US when McLaughlin became the first known transgender American executed.
In 2023 Florida executed Duane Owen without providing requested trans healthcare. Owen was convicted for the 1984 rape and stabbing of a 14-year-old, the rape and murder of a 38-year-old, and was a suspect in other attacks. Owen had been held on death row.
Incarceration not organized around sex segregation
Prison reform advocates have proposed eliminating sex-segregated prisons. They have suggested organizing prisoners by other means, including:
- type of crime
- reproductive capacity
- genital configuration/surgical status
- mental evaluation
Prison abolitionists have proposed a number of alternatives to incarceration for nonviolent and violent offenses, including:
- drug courts
- probation/community corrections
- halfway houses
- home confinement/electronic home monitoring
- fines and restitution
- community service
- mental health courts
- restorative justice
- boot camp
- public shaming