Hochul wants transgender inmates to choose prisons for housing

New York’s transgender inmates will get to choose where they’re housed based on their gender identity under a policy directive included in Gov. Kathy Hochul’s $216 billion budget plan.

The sweeping new policy says inmates who have a gender identity that differs from their assigned sex at birth will have the right to request placement in prison housing “with persons of the gender that is consistent with such person’s gender identity.”

Prison wardens will have the final say on the request, making decisions on a “case-by-case basis” that takes into account “safety, security or health concerns.”

Transgender inmates also must “have access to department-issued undergarments and clothing that are consistent with the individuals’ gender identity, and shall have the ability to receive undergarments, clothing and personal care items through package procedures,” according to language in Hochul’s budget bill covering the state Department of Correctional Services and Supervision.

Transgender inmates also have the right to to obtain “gender affirming medical and mental health care.”

Hochul’s plan also orders the DOCCS commissioner to draft rules and train officers to forbid discrimination against transgender inmates.

Gov. Kathy Hochul is ordering correctional facilities to supply transgender inmates with the appropriate gender clothing.
Mike Groll/Office of Governor Kathy Hochul

“No employee of the department shall misgender any individual in the care or custody of the department by intentionally referring to someone, including but not limited to, a transgender, gender nonconforming, nonbinary or intersex person, using a word, pronoun or form of address that does not correctly reflect the gender with which they identify,” the budget directive says.

Hochul said the transgender rights policy requires a change in state law and therefore approval from state lawmakers.

New York City jails adopted the transgender housing policy in 2018.

In 2014, the city created a special housing unit on Rikers Island for transgender inmates — those who were born male but identify as female.

A general view of the Manhattan Detention Complex located at 125 White Street in New York, NY.
There is no estimated figure into how many transgender inmates are in New York state prisons.
Christopher Sadowski

LGBT activists praised Hochul for advancing the rights of transgender inmates.

“It’s long overdue. Transgender persons are often the victims of violence and hate,” said Allen Roskoff, who heads the Jim Owles LGBT Liberal Democratic Club.

“I commend Governor Hochul for doing a wonderful, wonderful thing. It’s logical and forward looking. Transgender people need support.”

There are 31,000 incarcerated people housed in 50 prisons and other state facilities. It was not immediately known how many identify as transgender.