New York City’s Department of Corrections will now house incarcerated individuals based on the gender they identify as, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Monday.
The DOC is also working with the NYC Commission on Human Rights in order to maintain the Transgender Housing Unit as an additional safe housing option for trans inmates, the mayor said.
“It’s the city’s responsibility to protect the rights and safety of all New Yorkers, and that means protecting transgender individuals in city jails as well,” de Blasio said in a statement. “New York City is one of the first major cities to commit to taking this step, and it’s crucial to ensuring all our facilities are welcoming and safe for all New Yorkers, no matter their gender identity.”
The corrections department will have six months to implement this new policy. The change comes, de Blasio said, as the human rights commission has been working to ensure that the housing policies are consistent with an executive order signed by the mayor in March 2016.
That order, Executive Order No. 16, requires that all city agencies allow people to use single-sex facilities “consistent with their gender identity, without being required to show identification, medical documentation, or any other form of proof or verification of gender.”
New York City is now one of the first major cities in the nation to commit to housing inmates according to their gender identity, officials said.
Activists hope this change will help protect trans inmates from physical and sexual violence. According to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics in 2012, 40 percent of transgender prisoners are sexually abused each year, compared to 4 percent of prisoners in general.
“No one should feel unsafe for being who they are,” said Chair and Commissioner of the NYC Commission on Human Rights Carmelyn P. Malalis in a statement. “Housing incarcerated individuals consistent with their gender identity is not only about dignity and respect but an important recognition of the unique challenges and vulnerabilities transgender and gender non-conforming individuals face in corrections facilities nationwide.”