Campaign in Response to The Biden Executive Order 13988

Our first campaign in the USA focusses on the Biden Executive Order and the impact this will have on women in prison.


What is an Executive Order and how does it work?


In the United States system of government Congress makes the laws and the Executive Branch is responsible for carrying out and enforcing the laws. The Executive Branch is comprised of the President and the federal agencies, such as the Department of Education, Housing and Urban Development, and the Department of Justice.


One avenue for the President to carry out the laws is to provide formal direction to federal agencies as to *how* to implement the laws. This can be done by "Executive Order." At least in theory, Presidents are not permitted to "change" the law via EO's; they are only supposed to provide instruction where there is discretion or to provide priority or emphasis to existing law. Future presidents can rescind EO's, although this has been challenged in court under arguments such as discriminatory animus.  


At first glance, it appears as though the impact of EO's would only be on the federal government. So, for example, only on federal prisons (a very small segment of the incarcerated population), not on state prisons or county or municipal jails. However, through funding mechanisms, EO's can impact state and local governments as well. Many institutions run by non-federal governments, such as schools and prisons, receive federal funding. Through this funding, the federal government can enforce its rules and policies on non-federal government institutions. Meaning, those institutions risk losing federal government funding if they do not follow the rules imposed by federal agencies.


The Biden Executive Order and the impact on women in prison


The Biden EO 13988 on Preventing and Combatting Discrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity or Sexual Orientation was issued on 20 January 2021.  The EO has two main components: Policy, which is a series of aspirational statements and goals; Enforcement, which directs federal agencies how to carry out those goals.


The EO affords legal rights on the basis of ‘gender identity’ such that an individual’s stated gender identity takes precedence over their biological sex.  The EO provides no definition of ‘gender identity’. 


The EO undermines the provision of single-sex spaces and services, leaving women in prison vulnerable to being incarcerated with male prisoners in what will effectively become mixed-sex institutions.  Other single-sex spaces, such as homeless shelters and domestic violence refuges will also become mixed-sex facilities.


The EO will also enable males who identify as women to obtain positions of employment that are normally reserved for women, including those that involve physical contact with or visual observation of female inmates.


The EO requires agencies to develop a plan by 30 April 2021 to incorporate ‘sexual orientation and gender identity’ into its actions governing sex-based protections.  The laws which exist to protect women should not be open to including protection based on gender identity.


Click here to read an in-depth explanation of EO 13988.


What can I do?


Please email Michael Carvajal, Director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP), asking that the needs of incarcerated women are taken into consideration given the risks that women in prison face when self-declared ‘gender identity’ is used as the basis of admission to what should be single-sex spaces.  Please see below for a template letter.  Other individuals at BOP, including its Regional Directors, should also be emailed: details follow the template letter.  Emails need to be sent before 30 April, as agencies must have their plan developed by this date. 


Michael Carvajal, Director

Federal Bureau of Prisons
320 First St., NW
Washington, DC 20534




As the Federal Bureau of Prisons conducts its review required by Executive Order 13988, I ask that you consider concerns for incarcerated women in your analysis.


The use of self-declared “gender identity” to house biological males with incarcerated women will inevitably lead to physical and/or psychological harm to those women.

I am sure you are familiar with the research that shows that 86% of jailed women have previously experienced sexual violence. Requiring women who have experienced sexual violence to share sleeping quarters and showers and bathrooms with biological males is cruel; it goes beyond whatever punishment they received for their crimes.


The Executive Order requires no medical treatment (such as hormones or surgery) and you are likely aware that the vast majority of trans-identified males retain their male genitalia. Additionally, a 2015 Transgender survey shows that a majority of trans-identified males are female-attracted. 


In situations in which males have been permitted into women’s prisons, complaints have been filed by women alleging sexual harassment and rape. (See news reports about the Logan Correctional Center in Illinois, your own Carswell Medical Center in Fort Worth and, most recently, the women’s facility in Pierce County in Washington State.)


Housing biological males in women’s prisons puts women at risk physically and psychologically. It is contrary to the intent of the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) and to international standards of housing men and women separately. That there are incarcerated males who may need protection does not require placing them with women; there are other alternatives which do not harm women.


In considering whether BOP is required to apply EO 13988 to its operations, I urge you to prioritize biological sex for the safety, privacy and dignity of incarcerated women in your facilities.


Thank you.



Other Individuals at Federal Bureau of Prisons (reachable at the same address and email addresses as above):


  • Gene Beasley, Deputy Director

  • Zachary J. Kelton, Associate Director (White House Liaison)

  • Ken Hyle, Assistant Director (Inmate Litigation)

  • Andre Matevousian, Assistant Director Correctional Programs (Case Management Operations)

  • Louis Milusnic, Assistant Director Program Review

  • Michael Smith, Assistant Director Health Services

  • Sonya Thompson, Assistant Director Information, Policy & Public Affairs Division

  • _________, Women and Special Populations Branch Administrator


Regional Directors (reachable at addresses and email addresses below):


Juan Baltazar, Jr.  (South Central)

US Armed Forces Reserve CMPL

Grand Prairie, TX 75051


Barb von Blanckensee  (North Central)

400 State Avenue, Suite 800

Kansas City, KS 66101


Nicole C. English  (Northeast)

U.S. Custom House, 7th Floor

Philadelphia, PA 19106


J.A. Keller (Southeast)

3800 Camp Creek Pk SW

BDG 2000

Atlanta, GA 30331


James Petrucci (Mid-Atlantic)

302 Sentinel Drive

Annapolis Junction, MD 20701


Melissa Rios  (Western)

7338 Shoreline Drive

Stockton, CA 95219

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