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Transgender Mississippi Prisoners Targeted in Proposed Bill

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Incarcerated people could sue jails and prisons if they encounter transgender inmates in restrooms or changing areas under a proposed Mississippi bill.

State lawmakers advanced the proposal out of a House committee Thursday. It would require inmate restrooms, changing rooms and sleeping quarters in correctional facilities to be designated for use only by members of one sex. If prisoners encounter someone of the opposite sex in any of those areas, they could sue the prison under the proposal.

Correctional facilities in the state are already segregated by sex, and Republican Rep. Gene Newman, the bill’s sponsor, could not point to any example of a Mississippi facility forcing a prisoner to share spaces with someone from the opposite sex. Instead, Newman said, he introduced the bill in response to people in other parts of the country receiving accommodations that match their gender identity.

Read H.B. 585, the “Dignity and Safety for Incarcerated Women Act.”

“It gives the inmate a course of action,” Newman said. “Just watching things that’s happening around the country, I mean you’ve got girls sports. You’ve got men that are pretending to be women just to win. It’s going to happen in prison. Men shouldn’t be in with women. Period.”

The legislation defines “sex” as “a person’s biological sex, either male or female, as observed or clinically verified at birth.” It does not contain language about intersex people—those born with physical traits that don’t fit typical definitions for male or female categories.

Newman said the bill was written in part by the Alliance for Defending Freedom, which describes itself as a Christian law firm.

A handout distributed to lawmakers that Newman said was prepared by the firm cites a California law that requires the state to house transgender inmates in prisons based on their gender identity—but only if the state does not have “management or security concerns.”

Transgender inmates are often housed based on their sex assigned at birth. Advocates have said that practice can be dangerous for transgender women housed in facilities for men.

A report on the California law issued by the

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