D.C. Jail (Courtesy of dc.gov)
D.C. Jail (Courtesy of dc.gov)

DOC Says Transgender Inmates Decide Placement

People housed at the D.C. Jail will choose if they are placed in the male or female unit.

D.C.’s Department of Corrections will change how it houses transgender people in the D.C. Jail.

The policy reconsideration is part of a settlement with a transgender woman who filed a class-action lawsuit against the jail for holding her in a men’s unit.

In a press release, plaintiff Sunday Hinton said, “No one should face what I had to face at the D.C. Jail. DOC put my safety and mental health at risk, and I’m glad that other trans people at the Jail will be treated with more dignity.”

The settlement makes it so that people will be housed according to their gender identity preference regardless of their sexual anatomy.  The DOC will immediately enact this change. 

The agency will also make individual determinations if a transgender person should be placed in protective custody, which is similar to solitary confinement. DOC also agreed to submit regular reports to the Public Defender Service for D.C.

Hinton claimed she was forced to live in a men’s unit for more than half of her monthlong detention in the D.C. Jail last spring. Hinton was being held at the jail pretrial for a charge of unarmed burglary with the intent to steal $20, which was ultimately dismissed. After she filed a lawsuit, she was eventually moved to a women’s unit on the Correctional Treatment Facility side of the D.C. Jail complex.

Previous policy required that transgender people be housed according to their sexual anatomy. The DOC’s Transgender Housing Committee would meet and determine where an inmate would finally be placed. Hinton and her attorneys from the ACLU of DC and the Public Defender Service for D.C. argued that the new policy was unfair because it automatically placed transgender people in protective custody upon arrival to jail.

In addition to being held in single-occupancy cells, the transgender inmates would be shackled while moving around the facility. The DOC claimed these measures were for such inmates’ protection.

According to Rachel Cicurel, a staff attorney with the Public Defender Service for D.C., Hinton’s lawsuit improves the conditions for everyone held in protective custody “who until now were subjected to the degrading and unjustified practice of full-body shackling,” she wrote in the press release. 

DOC agress it will post its policies for housing transgender people on their website, and to submit monthly reports on how it houses transgender, intersex, and gender-nonconforming people for four months.

The ACLU of DC estimated that over the past year, about 50 transgender people were detained at the D.C. Jail.

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