Battle on in Maine over Legislation to Allow Men to Be Housed in Women’s Prisons Based on ‘Gender Identity’

In this Dec. 10, 2013 photo Tyniehsa Stephens visits with cellmates in a new unit in the H
AP Photo/Pat Sullivan

Lawmakers in Maine are considering legislation that would allow incarcerated individuals in the state to be assigned cells according to their “gender identity” instead of biological sex.

The bill has support from LGBT activists but those opposed to the bill include feminists and conservatives who believe women should be allowed to live in single-sex spaces, especially in places like prisons and domestic violence shelters where their safety could be compromised.

Women’s Liberation Front, or WoLF, is the feminist group that has helped lead the charge to preserve the status and safety of women, including opposing LN 1044, which was approved by the Maine Committee on Criminal Justice and Public Safety on Tuesday.

WoLF wrote about the bill on its website:

This bill would have a disastrous impact on the safety, rights, and dignity of incarcerated women in Maine by allowing men, regardless of their history of violence against women or the threat they may pose to women, to be moved to female correctional facilities. Prisons are separated by sex for a reason — to keep women safe from male violence. Allowing men to “self-identify” into women’s prisons violates the internationally recognized rights of prisoners, exposing them to an increased risk of sexualized violence.

In states like California and Washington that have enacted bills like LD 1044, we have already seen devastating results. In California, prison officials have spoken out about men falsely claiming to identify as “women” purely to seek a transfer. An advocacy group for incarcerated women told the Senate Judiciary Committee that at least one man so far has been successful in his ruse. One man, convicted of raping and torturing women, was moved to a California women’s prison where he subsequently raped female inmates.  

In Washington state, at least one of the men transferred under the state’s “gender identity” policy sexually assaulted a female inmate upon arrival.  Women’s involvement in the justice system is largely tied to their experiences of male violence. Women are most likely to be convicted of drug or property crimes, and the rates of violent crime committed by women are significantly lower than for men. When women commit violent crimes, it tends to be against an abusive male partner. Forcing women to be housed with violent men, including sex offenders, is cruel and a violation of their human rights.

WoLF cited a 2020 poll that showed 77 percent of American voters believe that male sex offenders or domestic abusers should not be placed in women’s prison regardless of what sex they “identify” with.

The  website article said the legislation “would also force female officers to conduct intimate searches on male prisoners, and unconstitutionally compel the speech of correctional officers.”

Supporters of the trans bill include Maine Trans Net, which wrote about it on the group Facebook page:

Exciting news! 

MTN’s first ever bill, LD 1044: An Act to Protect the Rights of Certain Incarcerated Individuals, was voted “Ought to Pass” by the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee this afternoon! This is a critical barrier for the bill and puts it in a strong position to become law.  LD 1044 guarantees the rights of transgender and intersex people incarcerated in Maine to have access to gender affirming housing, search practices, commissary, and language (names/pronouns). Thank you to Rep. Charlotte Warren, and the members of the CJPS Committee for your support today! 

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