The new 360-degree policies will include new practices from transport to booking and housing, said The Center’s Transgender Programs Coordinator Courtney Gray.
The policies, which have been in development for almost two years, could be the most progressive in the nation, she said, and aim to keep all inmates safe.
“We also want to make sure the system honors their identity.”
Gray and The Center’s legal director Mindy Barton, along with the ACLU of Denver, worked with a 40-member committee comprised of the sheriff department’s staff after Director of Corrections Gary Wilson reached out to the mayor’s GLBT Commission for insight, Gray said.
“It took a while to get passed a lot of the preconceptions most people have of trans individuals. A lot of people believe all trans people are deviant in some way,” Gray said. “But once we did, we got some pretty progressive stuff done.”
Neither Wilson nor a spokesman for of the sheriff’s department were immediately available for comment.
“The aim was to make sure we aren’t setting up people to be victimized sexually,” Gray said.
A recent survey released by the National Center for Transgender Equality found 22 percent of transgender individuals interacting with law enforcement reported experiencing harassment, and of those who spent time in jail reported 37 percent more harassment than their peers.
The new policies give those who identify as trans the ability to fill out a form with their preferred name and pronoun, as well as a preference for the gender of the person who will search their bodies. The policy also creates a transgender review board that includes a community advocate who can work with the staff to assist in determining issues such as which population an inmate should be placed in.
Most trans inmates are placed in solitary confinement, Gray said. And while a single cell might be the safest alternative in most cases, the new policy will allow for trans inmates to participate in group activities, classes and work release.
“They won’t have to be locked up for 23 hours,” Gray said.
The Center will continue to work with the sheriff’s department through the implementation of the policies and will review them annually.
Gray and Barton will honored today for their work with the sheriff department – they’ll receive the department’s Exemplary Service Award.