MADISON – The Wisconsin State Assembly today is hearing a bill – AB 447 – that aims to prohibit incarcerated trans, nonbinary and intersex people from being housed in facilities matching their authentic gender identity. The bill also requires strip searches be conducted by corrections staff whose sex aligns with the incarcerated person’s sexassigned at birth.
This bill creates a statutory rule for determining appropriate housing classifications for people in jail and prison instead of allowing for a case-by-case determination as required by the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) standards for placement of those in prisons and jails. Trans people are often already forced into facilities that do not align with their gender identity.
Dr. Melinda Brennan, Executive Director of the ACLU of Wisconsin, issued the following statement:
“While incarceration is extremely dangerous for everyone, trans and other LGBTQIA individuals are more prone to risk while in custody. Trans people are routinely harassed and abused behind bars. In fact, the Bureau of Justice Statistics at the Department of Justice found that 40% of incarcerated trans people have been sexually assaulted—more than 10 times the general incarcerated population rate. We also know that strip searches can be extremely degrading and traumatic, and they are often conducted inappropriately and without justification.
State jails and prisons have the obligation under the Eighth Amendment to keep individuals in their custody safe from abuse. AB 447 runs contrary to the principles enshrined in our bill of rights, and would also compel corrections officials to put transgender, nonbinary, and intersex incarcerated people in harm’s way.
The appalling conditions of Wisconsin correctional institutions have garnered national attention. If the legislators supporting this bill are genuinely concerned about making jails and prisons safer, they must take steps to reduce the size of our incarcerated population, improve sanitation, increase access to quality food and medical care, and expand opportunities for education, recreation and personal growth.
LGBTQIA people are already incredibly vulnerable in correctional facilities and this bill would only make them less safe. It is extraordinarily disturbing that our legislature continues to introduce and advance bill after bill that preys on and dehumanizes trans Wisconsinites.”
To find our positions on other bills introduced during this legislative session, please refer to our legislation tracker.