DC Jail to improve transgender housing policy to settle lawsuit

The D.C. Department of Corrections agreed late Wednesday to improve housing policies for transgender people at the D.C. Jail, according to a news release.

The move comes as part of the settlement of a lawsuit the D.C. ACLU and Public Defender Service brought on behalf of Sunday Hinton after the DOC placed her in a men’s unit for more than two weeks in May 2021, despite her identifying as a woman.

The Department of Corrections will now have safeguards in place to make sure transgender people are housed according to their gender identity as well as limit time spent in isolated “protective custody” status over safety concerns, the ACLU said.

People being transferred and moved within the jail will also no longer be shackled.

“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,” Hinton said in a statement.

Hinton spent four weeks at the jail after being ordered detained pretrial based on a charge of unarmed burglary with the intent to steal $20, the ACLU said. That charge has since been dismissed.

“Both the D.C. Jail’s practice of assigning transgender people to housing based on anatomy rather than identity and its decision to place trans residents in unnecessary full-body shackles in protective custody were discriminatory and profoundly harmful,” said Scott Michelman, Legal Director of the ACLU of the District of Columbia.

“It shouldn’t take a lawsuit to gain recognition of transgender peoples’ basic humanity and dignity, but we’re pleased the Department of Corrections has agreed to change its unlawful policies.”

A 2015 report by the National Center for Transgender Equality found that transgender people are five times more likely than cisgender people to be sexually assaulted while in custody.

More information about Hinton’s case is online at the ACLU.

Will Vitka

William Vitka is a Digital Editor and reporter for WTOP.com. He's been in the news industry for over a decade. Before joining WTOP, he worked for CBS News, Stuff Magazine, The New York Post and wrote a variety of books—about a dozen of them, with more to come.

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