Gender Integration in Sex-Segregated U.S. Prisons: The Paradox of Transgender Correctional Policy

  • Jennifer SumnerEmail author
  • Valerie Jenness


In the latter part of the twentieth century, the development of correctional policies in the United States related to transgender prisoners has rendered visible transgender prisoners, disrupted the taken-for-granted policies and practices related to the operation of sex-segregated prisons, and presented considerable challenges to those charged with running penal institutions. The courts and correctional administrators in particular have grappled with how best to adjudicate tensions born of the visible presence of transgender prisoners in prisons charged with housing men (and only men). We draw on multiple sources of data, including correctional policies, published surveys, court opinions, activist testimony, news documents, and legal discourse, to analyze the parameters of extant transgender correctional policy in the U.S. Our examination reveals that transgender correctional policy is: shaped by “safety and security” concerns, arguably the central institutional logic underlying the management of prisons; unsettled insofar as there is both convergence and divergence in the content of policy related to transgender inmates (e.g., there is almost complete agreement on the enforcement of anatomy-based housing policies and there is considerable disagreement over policies related to hormonal treatment); and attentive to the control of place for transgender prisoners, although not comparable control of “presentation and demeanor” for transgender prisoners. A collateral consequence of these features of correctional policy is that prisons for men in the U.S. are at once sex-segregated and multi-gendered.


Transgender inmate Transgender prisoner Correctional policy Safety and security Sex/gender 



The authors would like to thank the following CDCR personnel who contributed to this work in important ways by providing and interpreting CDCR policies for us as we produced this chapter: Nola Grannis, Suzan Hubbard, and Wendy Still. In addition, the chapter has benefitted from comments provided by our academic colleagues, including Kitty Calavita, Kristy Matsuda, Cheryl Maxson, Jodi O’Brien, Joan Petersilia, Lori Sexton, and Brian Williams. Alyse Bertenthal provided very helpful comments on an earlier version of this chapter, which helped us clarify the legal underpinnings that provide the foundation for many judicial decisions presented. Finally, the following experts helped clarify the arguments presented in this chapter: Dr. Lori Kohler, Alexander L. Lee, Linda McFarlane, Lovisa Stannow, and Dr. Denise Taylor.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Criminal JusticeSeattle UniversitySeattleUSA
  2. 2.Department of Criminology, Law and Society, School of Social EcologyUniversity of California IrvineIrvineUSA

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