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Transgender Offenders in the Criminal Justice System

The transgender population who are incarcerated often faces various unique challenges which exposes them vulnerabilities both physical and mental. The LBGT community is overrepresented in prisons across the country. As such, they are more likely to face violence and abuse from the general population behind bars. Therefore, transgender inmates present the correctional department with the unique challenge of housing, medical treatment, privacy, and safety, among other concerns. Hence, I selected this topic to gain insight in the challenges, cost, and future implications of having transgenders in the criminal justice system.

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The health of inmates has been a challenging issue for the correctional department and prison administrators. The officers and the management must recognize and treat the prisoners with mental and psychological issues which have further compounded the situation. Transgender inmates are mostly confronted with physical and mental health issues which makes it a challenge to rehabilitate them. For example, transgenders in the state of Oregon transgenders have petitioned the state regarding housing, medical expenses, and the violence meted on the m by both the staff and other inmates. These inmates stated that the prison staff have been denying them access to hormone therapy, gender confirmation surgery, and the freedom to to exhibit characteristics that conforms to their gender. However, hormonal therapy is a legitimate concern that have been ignored by Oregon DOC causing distress on the transgenders.

However, the time has changed and the correctional department has been evolving of the years to meet the needs of the transgender inmates. The traditional methods have carved into the current demands giving way for prison administrators to change how they manage the inmate population. Nevertheless, one of the most challenging issues is the management of the transgender population and their evolving needs (Maycock, 2020). Previously, prison management would confine a male inmate into seclusion whenever he started identifying as a female or vice versa. Additionally, transgenders were ridiculed, bullied, or verbally assaulted by prison guards. However, the practice has changed over time and it is now considered unprofessional and uncouth to insult transgender inmates since it can expose the prison facility to liability.

The goal of a correctional facility for transgender inmates is to guarantee their safety. This means protecting them from physical and emotional attacks from other inmates and “rogue” staff. Additionally, it also involves protecting from self-harming tendencies. However, housing and supervision of transgender inmates are not easy since, in most cases, they are housed according to their gender. Currently, the housing of inmates is done by following the gender assigned at birth, genitalia or the preferences of individual transgender. In 2013, the Congress passed the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA), which guides correctional staff on housing and safe custody (Maycock, 2020). Hence, the law protects transgender from victimization and sexual assaults while in prison.

The future of transgender in state prisons looks promising. The society has accepted them and therefore, most of the prisoners understand the concept of being a transgender. As such, the prison system is developing ways of ensuring their safety, giving them access to medical care, and improving the living standards to accommodate them (Maycock, 2020). Moreover, criminal justice system should allow transgenders to undergo gender confirmation surgery if the patient’s doctors proves that it could improve their quality of life. The prison department are facing increased cost of medication, housing, and manpower to ensure that transgenders are safe. The other cost is of creating awareness on transgender among the general population. In future, correctional facilities may be required to have a separate housing for transgender and the LBGT community to ensure that they are not victimized.

Dealing with transgender inmates presents prison authorities with the challenge of housing and ensuring their safety. Previously, these inmates faced many challenges related to the access to medical treatment, especially concerning their hormone therapy, and where to house them. Additionally, some were the target of physical and mental abuse by both the correctional staff and fellow inmates. However, this has changed over time and it has been made unprofessional for a prison guard to insult, ridicule, or harass an inmate based on gender. Currently, correctional department is assigning facilities to transgenders based on the assigned gender at birth, personal preferences, or genitalia.


Maycock, M. (2020). The transgender pains of imprisonment. European Journal Of Criminology, 147737082098448.

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