NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The New York City Department of Correction is opening a new Transgender Housing Unit for transgender women at Rikers Island.

Developed with advice and feedback from the LGBTQI community, the unit, which is opening this week, is designed to offer transgender women safe and respectful separation from the general population along with access to medical and mental health care as necessary and a range of programs and services.

“Because inmates are not all alike, the Department is creating specialized housing for many specific inmate groups,” said DOC Commissioner Joe Ponte. “Just as adolescents, young adults, and mentally ill inmates have specialized needs, so do men who identify as women.  Providing them with specialized housing and services is good policy and meaningful reform and is expected to reduce incidents involving these individuals while also leading to better long-term outcomes, including possible reductions in recidivism.”

The Transgender Housing Unit has 30 beds.  There are typically between 30 and 35 transgender women in DOC custody at any given time, and inmates will be placed in the unit voluntarily.

The DOC said it consulted with advocacy groups and conducted focus groups and conversations with transgender women in prison to ensure that the unit would meet their needs and be sensitive to the additional challenges that transgendered inmates face while in custody.

Prior to the creation of the Transgender Housing Unit, most transgender women were housed in the general population or in protective custody.

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