Prison Progress

Activists offer measured praise for transgender plans

On Feb. 20 the D.C. Department of Corrections issued its new policy regarding the treatment of transgender inmates. The document was drafted after activists, including the DC Trans Coalition, sent a list of revisions to the DOC in response to a Jan. 5 operations memorandum.

Some of those changes were approved.

”We got a provision included about strip searches that, unless there’s [unique circumstances], transgender inmates be strip searched privately, not in front of other inmates or unnecessary staff,” says Darby Hickey, policy associate for Just Detention International. ”That seemed like a pretty important change.”

Other proposed changes, like asking that transgender inmates be called by the correct pronouns, were not. The DOC says it is its policy to use ”Inmate” followed by the last name of the person in every instance.

Keeping a positive outlook on the progress that’s been made, Hickey says, ”It’s a great start.

”It’s definitely one of the better policies in the country, regarding jails and transgender inmates.”

What’s new is the implementation of a transgender committee, made up of a medical practitioner, a mental-health clinician, a correctional supervisor and a DOC-approved volunteer, who will determine the placement of each transgender inmate within 72 hours of intake.

Inmates would be qualified for this analysis, according to the Feb. 20 document, if they: ”indicate that they are transgendered or intersex at anytime during their custody,” if their gender identity differs from their ”birth genitalia,” or if a designation is made by a public entity, government agency or law enforcement agency.

”At this point, I think folks will be focusing on making sure [the policy] translates from the paper to the practice,” Hickey says.