It’s been less than a year since New Jersey implemented a new policy that would allow biological male prisoners to be housed alongside women in women’s prison facilities, and now two women incarcerated at the Edna Mahan Correctional Facility are pregnant.
27 biological males are housed in Edna Mahan, in Clinton, New Jersey, and there are over 800 women there as well. Edna Mahan is the only women’s prison facility in the Garden State.
An investigation has been launched into the origins of the pregnancies, though reports from the prison say that the women voluntarily engaged in sex with a biological male inmate who claims to be female, despite having the obvious ability to impregnate women, something only men can do. It’s not clear if the two women had sex with the same bepenised inmate, or different ones.
The policy change came after the ACLU brought a suit against the state, demanding that New Jersey allow biological male inmates to self-ID as women in order to gain access to women’s prisons.
“While DOC cannot comment on any specific disciplinary or housing decisions that may be considered in light of these events,” corrections department external affairs director Dan Sperrazza told local news, “the Department always reserves all options to ensure the health and safety of the individuals in its custody.”
Those biological males who seek transfer to the women’s prison need only say that they are women, no medical transition is required for these prisoners who were once housed in male facilities to be moved over to the women’s estate.
The policy of allowing biological males to self-ID as women and be placed in women’s prisons came about after a lawsuit was brought in August 2020 by a biological male who claimed to have been harassed while in men’s prisons.
“I am a woman and feel unsafe in a men’s prison,” the inmate said in the suit, filed by the ACLU.
“When I was forced to live in men’s prisons, I was terrified I wouldn’t make it out alive. Those memories still haunt me,” the inmate, under the pseudonym Sonia Doe said in a statement at the time. “Though I still have nightmares about that time, it’s a relief to know that as a result of my experience the NJDOC has adopted substantial policy changes so no person should be subjected to the horrors I survived.”
The ACLU praised the judicial decision allowing biological males to be housed in women’s prisons alongside women. ACLU attorney Tess Border said that the decision was “a total reversal of the prior problematic and unlawful practice” of requiring males to be housed with males even if they say they are women.
“This is really historic,” Border said at the time. “It’s something New Jersey should be proud of.”
Abuse has been rampant at the facility, with a lawsuit against the prison finding that there had been beatings of the women prisoners, as well as rapes and attacks, and that the staff had not protected the women from this abuse. There are 10 guards from Edna Mahan who are facing criminal charges after allegedly assaulting and beating inmates in 2020. One woman was punched 28 times.
As part of the changes wrought through the legal battle to allow biological male prisoners to self-ID into women’s prisons, prison staff will be made to use an inmate’s preferred pronouns, provide cross-sex clothing and underclothes to inmates who identify as the opposite sex, and also provide cross-sex hormones and surgical gender transition when “medically appropriate.”
In addition, The Daily Mail reports, “Other protections include single-cell housing while final housing determinations are being made; being able to shower separately from other inmates; the right to have input into housing decisions and to appeal those decisions, and a prohibition of physical examinations to determine an inmate’s genital status.”
Robyn Gigl was also representing the anonymous biologically male inmate who sought, and won a transfer to a women’s prison. Gigl said that medical gender transition absolutely should be provided by the state of New Jersey to inmates who want it.
Gigl equated surgical castration, cross-sex hormone prescriptions, and breast augmentation for biological males who want female-looking breasts to cancer treatment, saying that it is a fundamental human right.
“We wouldn’t deny someone who is incarcerated treatment for a heart condition or cancer — that would be cruel and unusual punishment,” Gigl said. “To the extent that trans people deserve to be treated with respect, to deny them that care would be cruel and unusual.”
In Washington, where this inmate policy was also implemented, the ACLU blocked the accumulation and release of data as to how many biological males were housed in women’s prisons. A female inmate in that state was assaulted by a biological male who had gained admittance to the prison by saying he was a woman. Rapes were also reported.
Prison employees also receive training on how to address and facilitate the needs of prisoners who identify as the opposite sex. The inmate who brought the lawsuit won a settlement of $125,000, as well as legal fees.
New Jersey’s labor union for corrections officers filed a suit to halt the change in policy of housing same-sex inmates together. They had concerns about how strip searches would be performed, and said the rules on how to handle these and others matters was not clear.
Union president William Sullivan said in June 2021 after the settlement that “Some of the officers have religious and personal issues with that, so that’s the only issue.”
The Daily Mail reports that the is a chance that the pregnancies among the two women, a direct result of housing functional males with women, may end in abortion.
Sullivan now claims that the union opposed the policy change, despite his words saying that officers’ personal preferences “were the only issue.”
“We opposed this policy change believing it would be detrimental to the general population of female inmates being housed at Edna Mahan and also bring added stress to our correctional police officers assigned to this institution,” Sullivan said after the pregnancies were revealed.
Washington, California, Illinois, and other states also have this policy. New York is seeking to implement it. In California, after the policy was announced, the Department of Corrections started distributing condoms in women’s prisons, though sex is prohibited.