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Transgender policies, definitions goals of Nevada prison changes proposed in SB153

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‘Respectful, up-to-date terminology’ part of bill’s details

LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — Nevada prisons are responsible for adopting regulations and developing standards in dealing with inmates who are transgender, gender non-conforming, gender non-binary and intersex under the terms of legislation before the Legislature this session.

Senate Bill 153 (SB153) was presented during a hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday afternoon in Carson City.

The bill requires each prison or other facility under the Nevada Department of Corrections to establish standards for the supervision, custody, care, security, housing and health care — both mental and physical — for inmates who fit into these categories.

Sy Barnebie, executive director of Gender Justice Nevada, testified in support of the bill from Las Vegas.

“I’ve never been in prison, but I’m scared to death of being incarcerated because I know that trans people experience a much higher rate of violence just because of their gender identity and expression,” Barnebie said.

“I know that I would probably be continually misgendered, harassed and possibly experience horrendous acts of sexual violence as statistics reflect that,” Barnebie said, citing federal statistics that indicate 35% of trans and intersex inmates have reported sexual assault or abuse in the past year. “And that’s just what has been reported.”

Republican Senator Ira Hansen asks a question during Tuesday’s hearing at the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Republican Senator Iran Hansen, who represents rural northwest Nevada, expressed staffing concerns, saying the Lovelock prison in his district couldn’t even get enough guards.

SB153 also requires “training in cultural competency for interacting with offenders” in these categories. It also prohibits discrimination.

The bill spells out the following definitions:

  • “Gender non-binary” means a person whose gender identity does not conform to the traditional gender binary of male and female.
  • “Gender non-conforming” means a person whose gender characteristics or behaviors do not conform to those characteristics or behaviors traditionally associated with the biological sex of the person.
  • “Intersex” means a condition in which a person is born with external genitals, internal reproductive organs, chromosome patterns or an endocrine system that does not conform to the traditional gender binary of male or female.
  • “Transgender” means a person whose gender identity or expression differs from the sex assigned to the person at birth.

Democratic Senator Melanie Scheible (D-Clark County) presented the bill. She noted the need for “respectful, up-to-date terminology part of bill’s details.”

“We see the Department of Corrections as a partner in solving these problems,” Scheible said. NDOC Director James Dzurenda has been open to establishing these policies, Scheible said.

Senator Melanie Scheible presents SB153 at the Nevada Legislature on Tuesday.

Hansen also asked questions suggesting that inmates would lie. For example, a male inmate might try to get assigned to a female prison — increasing the risk of rape for the female inmates.

Bernabie said inmates now don’t have a choice of where they are housed, and they wouldn’t in the future — they would be screened and placed in the appropriate facility.

Scheible said a major point of SB153 is to get policies in place. She said the bill doesn’t change any policies that prisons currently have on housing inmates — it doesn’t require any “gender neutral” prison cells or other strategies, which could be developed in regulations that require review by the Nevada Board of Prisons.

She said the bill is not an attempt to reinvent the wheel.

If the bill passes, the NDOC director must set policies on or before Jan. 1, 2024.

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