LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — Nevada prisons must adopt policies on housing inmates with consideration to their gender identity under a law signed Wednesday by Gov. Joe Lombardo.

Prison staff will also go through training on “cultural competency for interacting with offenders who are transgender, gender non-conforming, gender non-binary and intersex” under terms of the new law.

The deadline for policies to be set is Jan. 1, 2024. It will be up to the Nevada Board of Prisons to review the policies before they go into effect. The law doesn’t spell out details — it just requires the Nevada Department of Corrections to set policies.

ACLU of Nevada Executive Director Athar Haseebullah said the fight has taken years to win.

“Nevada’s prisons have largely failed to comply with Ninth Circuit case law on how incarcerated people who are transgender should be treated while in the state’s care,” Haseebullah said.

“We’re pleased to see Gov. Lombardo recognize the importance of this legislation and save the taxpayers of Nevada significant money by avoiding unnecessary and costly litigation we were likely to proceed with on this matter, and we’re grateful to bill sponsor Senator Melanie Scheible for advancing the rights of transgender people throughout this session.”

Senate Bill 153 (SB153) requires each prison or other NDOC facility to establish standards for the supervision, custody, care, security, housing and health care — both mental and physical — for inmates who fit into these categories. The bill provides these 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.

Scheible sponsored SB153, which had a hearing on March 21. At the time, Republican Sen. Ira Hansen challenged the bill, saying inmates would game the system to get into the type of facility they preferred.

But advocates for the bill said inmates don’t get to choose where they go now, and they wouldn’t in the future.

A statement from the Republican Party said: “While this bill is an obvious attempt to deny reality (you cannot change your gender, no matter what surgery you have), this bill puts other prisoners in danger, and opens the state up for litigation risk on a number of fronts.”

ACLU of Nevada Director of Communications and Campaigns West Juhl called it a “huge step forward” for the state.

“Across the country, people who are transgender, nonbinary and gender diverse are under attack,” Juhl said.

“Even here in Nevada, we are seeing extremists trying to score political points by spreading misinformation and hate. As a nonbinary person, I’ve heard countless stories of inequity based on gender identity or expression, and that’s true in our prisons as well,” Juhl said. “I am glad to see the governor sign these important protections for transgender people into law. All Nevadans, including people who are incarcerated, have a right to access gender-affirming care under the law, and this is a huge step forward for our state.”