The U.S. Department of Justice recently released new National Standards to Prevent, Detect and Respond to Prison Rape. These standards include a number of victories for movements to end sexual assault. In a press release, Sylvia Rivera Law Project highlighted victories in the new standards that were the outcome of organizing by incarcerated transgender & gender non-conforming people. Two that will have a strong impact are: case-by-case consideration is required for housing in a male or female facility, not just a blanket decision based on genital status, which means more trans women will be housed in women’s facilities; and there is a ban on physical examination of transgender inmates solely for determining their genital status.
However, as SRLP’s press release points out, this “victory” is complicated for us who know that the only way to end the violence of the prison system is through abolition, not reform.
This step is an important effort in reforming systems of incarceration that target, isolate and expose our communities to violence and death. As we hold this rule as victory, we also recognize the limitations of reform in correctional systems that are in place to maintain systems of hierarchy, capitalism, violence and racism that formed the basis for slavery, convict-leasing, Jim Crow legal frameworks and ultimately provide the backdrop for many of our constitutional frameworks.