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Michigan Prison Officers Objecting to New Strip-Search Rules for Transgender Inmates

AP Photo/Armando Franca

On Monday, Michigan's Department of Corrections issued new rules on the conduct of strip searches on inmates. The rule change is in response to a federal audit and was reportedly implemented to comply with federal law.

Michigan corrections officers say they are alarmed by a new Department of Corrections policy under which female officers must perform strip searches on inmates in men's prisons who say they identify as female and don't want to be strip-searched by a man.

Kyle Kaminski, a spokesman for the department, said the policy change, which took effect Monday, results from a federal audit into compliance with the Prison Rape Elimination Act.

"This is about complying with federal law," Kaminski said. "We need to do cross-gender searches based on the gender identity of the prisoner, not their sex at birth or the facility where they're housed."

Here's the problem: This policy is reality-denying, and worse, it seems the officers in question weren't allowed to give feedback before the rule change.

Cary Johnson, a corrections officer at Cotton Correctional Facility near Jackson and recording secretary of the Michigan Corrections Organization (MCO) union, said she is shocked by both the change and by the lack of consultation before the new policy was announced.

Most female officers are accepting and supportive of LGBTQ+ people and issues, but it's different inside prison because many inmates of all gender identities and sexual orientations are manipulative and flawed decisions can put officers' lives at risk, Johnson said.

This is not only a stupid policy; it is a dangerously stupid policy, one that could result in a 110-pound female officer in a small, enclosed space, alone with a 220-pound male inmate who claims to be a woman, which claim is apparently accepted by the Department of Corrections on the inmate's say-so. What could possibly go wrong? Well, a lot, as it happens.

Strip searches are normally conducted by a single officer in a small room where nobody else can observe the prisoner, she said. Union officials say they are concerned not only about potential danger to female officers, but the availability of female officers to perform strip searches, since only 918 of the department's 5,100 officers are female. That, along with the cramped rooms often used for strip searches, makes adding a second female officer impractical, they say.

"I've heard prisoners saying, 'Yes, I'm going to identify as female so I can get one of these women alone,'" Johnson said Monday.

It's tempting to ask here, "What could possibly go wrong?" But that bit of sarcastic doggerel, so frequently appropriate in so many issues of the day, just seems inadequate here, as the obvious reply is: "What the hell? Everything about this is wrong!" This is transgender activism run amok; it is being rammed down the throats of Michigan corrections officers by an overbearing federal government, and it has not even a nodding acquaintance with reality.

It's bad enough that young girls are being denied athletic awards and scholarships by mid-grade boys who suddenly decide they would rather play on the girls' team. It's bad enough that college sorority girls are being forced to either leave their sorority or live with a male student who reportedly identifies as female but is "attracted to women." It's bad enough that in some parts of the country, schools are being told to use a student's preferred "gender identity" or pronouns regardless of what their parents think. It's bad enough that we American taxpayers are shelling out billions — yes, billions — of dollars to push LGBTQ+++ agendas in other countries. But now, in Michigan, in the name of political correctness, enforced by an overbearing, dictatorial federal government, we have a policy that is very likely to end up with a female corrections officer being sexually assaulted or raped.

There is some sanity involved in the whole affair; the union that represents the corrections officers is seeking to have some sanity restored.

Byron Osborn, president of the MCO, said the union filed a grievance about the policy change Monday. The union learned about the change only one hour before it was announced Nov. 1, with no consultation, and its questions to the administration about the policy have so far not been answered, he said.

Osborn said female corrections officers will be put at risk under the new policy, which he said is political correctness run amok.

With the department already short about 1,000 officers, Osborn said he's concerned the new policy will prompt many female officers to quit.

Johnson said she's heard many female officers say they won't perform the strip searches, even if it means getting cited for insubordination.

I'm normally not a big fan of public-sector unions. But in this case, I'm hoping the MCO pulls off a win, and with luck, this lesson will go national before anyone gets hurt.

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