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VICTOR JOECKS: Prevent rape: Keep men out of women’s prisons

A Nevada Democrat wants to lay the groundwork to put men in women’s prisons.

On Tuesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee heard Senate Bill 153, sponsored by Sen. Melanie Scheible. It would require the director of the Department of Corrections to institute new regulations on housing, medical care and security for transgender prisons. Those regulations must “apply the generally accepted standards of care and best practices” for transgender prisoners. Further, it requires the use of “respectful language and currently accepted terminology” for transgender prisoners.

That bland language is an attempt to hide an extremely radical proposal. The bill is an attempt to put biological men in women’s prisons.

This is a terrible idea. Locking a woman in a cell with a man is wrong. The government shouldn’t force any women to undress, shower and sleep next to any man.

It’s an especially bad idea when that man has been convicted of a serious felony, such as sexual assault or murder.

In 2021, a woman serving time at Rikers in New York was raped after she finished showering. The perpetrator was a biological man who said he was a transgender woman and lived in the female area of the prison.

In January, a woman housed in an Ohio prison said she was raped by her cellmate, who is a biological male, but claims to be a female.

In Washington state, a man convicted of having sex with a 12-year-old girl claimed he was transgender. He ended up sharing a cell with a developmentally disabled woman. Shortly after, prison officials found them unclothed and in bed together.

In California, a group of female inmates filed a lawsuit against the state law that allows men in women’s prisons. Krystal Gonzalez is one of the plaintiffs. “Krystal was sexually assaulted by a man transferred to her unit” under that law, a 2021 court filing said. After she filed a grievance, the prison “referred to her assault by a ‘transgender woman with a penis.’ Krystal does not believe that women have penises.”

Further, “some incarcerated women sharing a cell with a man, along with other women, now make sleep schedules among the women so that a woman is on watch to try to prevent rape by the male cellmate,” the lawsuit said.

That’s an understandable fear. A third of the transgender inmates in California seeking access to women’s prisons are registered sex offenders. That’s from public records request by Keep Prisons Single Sex.

Scheible tried to brush these concerns aside. It’s “possible” some prisoners would try to “game that system in order to be placed in the wrong housing facility,” she said. “I think the Department of Corrections is smart enough to write a policy that doesn’t allow people to do that.”

That rhetorical dodge isn’t convincing because there’s no objective test to determine if someone is really transgender or not. That’s why you shouldn’t use an ideology based on a logical fallacy to make public policy. In another context, Scheible’s response would even be considered transphobic because she cast doubt on the sincerity of someone’s gender identity.

But at least she’s willing to admit this is a concern. Richard Saenz, an attorney with Lambda Legal who helped answer questions about the bill, didn’t.

“I think it is inaccurate to state that a transgender woman is a biological male,” he said. “The science just doesn’t support that.” As such, “there really isn’t a factual basis to say that (putting transgender women in female prisons is) going to increase the risk of rape.”

The female inmates who’ve been raped by transgender women with functioning penises, also known as men, would probably disagree. It’s why the Legislature must keep men out of women’s prisons.

Contact Victor Joecks at vjoecks@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4698. Follow @victorjoecks on Twitter.

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