WASHINGTON (WDVM) — The ACLU of the District of Columbia and the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia are suing the D.C. government to stop the Department of Corrections from incarcerating a transgender woman in the men’s unit of the D.C. Jail.
According to the ACLU-DC, the Department of Corrections assigns incarcerated individuals to housing based on their genitalia, not their gender identity. The ACLU-DC says that’s a violation of an individual’s equal protection and due process rights and statutory protections under the D.C. Human Rights Act. Transgender individuals may be moved if the Department of Corrections’s Transgender Housing Committee recommends their reassignment. The ACLU-DC says the committee, made up of DOC staff, a doctor, social worker, mental health clinician and other transgender individuals, has been suspended for more than a year.
The inmate, Sunday Hinton, has repeatedly requested to be transferred. The ACLU-DC reports the DOC is permitting Hinton to live in solitary confinement instead, but attorney Megan Yan says it’s an inhumane practice. “They develop anxiety, despair; all sorts of harmful symptoms,” she said. “And in fact, transgender individuals in solitary confinement also face a high risk of deep psychological harm and possibly even suicide.”
The 2015 U.S. Transgender Study found transgender individuals are over five times more likely to be sexually assaulted while in custody than their cisgender counterparts.
The ACLU-DC and Public Defender Service filed a motion to transfer Hinton to the women’s unit and to prohibit the DOC from using genitalia as the “sole criterion in housing assignments regardless of gender identity and individual safety.” It’s also asked the DOC to reactivate its Transgender Housing Committee.
WDVM reached out to the Department of Corrections for comment but did not receive a response.