December 2, 2016

Can you please clarify the parameters of conducting a search of a transgender or intersex inmate/resident?


An agency cannot search or physically examine transgender or intersex inmates/residents/detainees for the sole purpose of determining their genital status. As noted in PREA Standards 115.15(d), 115.115(d), 115.215(d), and 115.315(d), if an inmate’s, resident's or detainee's genital status is unknown, an agency can determine it through conversations with the inmate/resident/detainee, by reviewing medical records, or, if necessary, by learning that information as part of a broader medical examination conducted in private by a medical practitioner. Additionally, agencies must provide training to security staff in how to conduct cross-gender pat-down searches and searches of transgender and intersex inmates/residents/detainees. See Standards 115.15, 115.115, 115.215, and 115.315. Security staff must conduct these searches in a professional and respectful manner; in the least intrusive manner possible, and consistent with security needs. Id.

Operationally, four options are in current practice for searches of transgender or intersex inmates/residents/detainees: 1) searches conducted only by medical staff; 2) pat searches of adult inmates conducted by female staff only, especially given there is no prohibition on the pat searches female staff can perform (except in juvenile facilities); 3) asking inmates/residents/detainees to identify the gender of staff with whom they would feel most comfortable conducting the search, and 4) searches conducted in accordance with the inmate’s gender identity.

Revised December 2, 2016. Original posting date February 7, 2013

LGBTI Inmates/Residents/Detainees/Staff,