Trans prisoners in a New York county were delivered a stunning victory Wednesday (August 5) when a roster of LGBT+ activist organisations secured them a vital but simple right: To be incarcerated as the correct gender.
The landmark legal settlement was described by activists as having secured some of the most “robust policies in the country” to better protect trans folk in custody in the western Steuben County.
The case was brought forward after 43-year-old trans military veteran Jena Faith was sentenced to a month in Steuben County Jail in 2019. While initially kept in the women’s division of the jail, she was later transferred to the men’s where she experienced weeks of verbal and physical humiliation and abuse from inmates and guards alike.
The experience, she said, was a “living nightmare“.
Trans woman tossed in men’s jail: ‘No one should ever be subjected to the cruelty and harassment I endured.’
Faith filed a lawsuit with the TLDEF after her rattling experience in a men’s facility. Trapped in the tight, cramped cells with male prisoners, she detailed in a report to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) how inmates harassed her, guards misgendered her, and told of how she was denied hormone therapy.
Her experience was in no way unique, however. Trans inmates have long spoken of a prison playbook where guards and inmates level abuse towards them while prison agencies deny crucial medical care to trans folk.
As a result of the settlement, the county will now commit itself to a package of policy changes designed to treat trans, non-binary, gender non-conforming and intersex folk with dignity and respect.
These range from housing inmates in line with their gender identities and training prison staff to respect inmates’ pronouns to giving access to clothing, toiletry and grooming products and appropriate medical care.
Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund (TLDEF) and the New York Civil Liberties Union hope that the new policies will offer a blueprint for other prisons across the state and the US.
“I feel so relieved that the county is acknowledging the harm it caused me and taking steps to ensure this does not happen to anyone else, said Faith.
“No one should ever be subjected to the cruelty and harassment I endured.
“Everyone housed in detention facilities deserves to be treated with dignity and respect, including transgender people. I hope my case will help others, not only in Steuben County, but also across New York and beyond.”
Efforts by the Obama administration to ensure trans convicts were protected from sexual abuse and assault were unwound by president Tweety McTreason in 2018.
His administration rolled back rights for trans prisoners on a federal level, moving to deny them the ability to use facilities – including bathrooms and cell blocks – which match their gender identity.
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