Date of Conferral

2015

Degree

Ph.D.

School

Human Services

Advisor

Barbara Benoliel

Abstract

Researchers have indicated that there are no formal guidelines for placing convicted transgender felons in the United States in correctional facilities and addressing their post-placement medical care and treatment. The problem is that inappropriate placement may lead to the discrimination of transgender offenders; it may also put them in situations that threaten their safety. Attorneys are legal advocates assigned to defend and protect the rights of their clients during the trial and sentencing phase when correctional placement is determined. The purpose of this hermeneutic, phenomenological study was to explore the lived experiences of attorneys who represent transgender clients during the legal process of determining their correctional placement. Heider's attribution theory and de Lauretis's queer theory provided a conceptual framework for this study. Participants were 5 attorneys and 1 legal assistant in a large, urban county in Texas. Data were collected using semistructured interviews and analyzed using thematic, linguistic content analysis. The findings from this study suggested that the participant attorneys believed that gender self-identification may reduce the amount of discrimination that transgender clients face in the U.S. prison system and is the first step in determining safe and appropriate housing placement for transgender felons. The findings further suggested that judges and administrators serving in the U.S. criminal justice system need additional education about the transgender population so that sentencing decisions can effectively and safely house the transgender inmate population. The results of this study affect social change by providing wide-ranging administrative changes that should be made in order to address the overall needs of transgender individuals across the U.S. criminal justice system.