Caitlyn Jenner, at the time Bruce Jenner, struck a car in California man in a three car pile up on February of this year that killed a woman. Jenner was allegedly on her phone at the time of the accident and is being sued by multiple people injured in the crash and the family of the deceased. Worse for Jenner, she might be charged with vehicular manslaughter.
If charged, Caitlyn Jenner could serve a full year in prison. This begs the question, will Jenner go to male or female prison?
Federal law confers the right of Jenner to select which gender of prison she wishes to go to. This is according to a regulations mandated by the Department of Justice in 2003, which is only recently enforced, called Prison Rape Elimination Act or PREA. This law allows inmates to determine which gender they sexual identify with and in which population they wish to serve their sentence. The stipulation is that any transgender potential inmate must have legally amended their birth certificate to show the gender with which they identify.
This is not the only potentially controversial transgender prison issue of recent note. Bradley Manning, now known as Chelsea Manning, responsible for leaking confidential government documents to Julian Assange, the founder of Wikileaks, is serving time in Army prison. While the prison is for males, Chelsea is having her controversial hormone treatments paid for by the United States Army – otherwise known as the American taxpayer.
With roughly 700,000 transgender people in the United States it’s inevitable that some will find their way into the justice system. But with many transgender people lacking the ability to change their birth certificate there’s room for even more controversy. Will future inmates be allowed to change their prison gender preference at will regardless of stated sex on a birth certificate?
The culture is now accepting of transgender individuals, but penal policy has not caught up. The local controversies about young people who believe they are transgendered using the “wrong” middle school bathroom is difficult enough, but what fate awaits a transgender in a prison situation as once again, pop culture bolts way ahead of government policy and universal social acceptance.
Perhaps only a Supreme Court case will tell.