Below find an article published by DCTC in the March 13th, 2009 edition of the Washington Blade.
Better treatment for trans inmates
Mayor Fenty must now put transgender jail policy into practice. These changes represent the start of a dialogue, not an end.
J. RHODES PERRY – JASON A. TERRY
ON FEB. 20, THE D.C. Trans Coalition received notice from Attorney General Peter Nickles that the city’s Department of Corrections had issued a revised policy on gender classification and housing at D.C.’s jails. This was a victory for us and for the trans community, after a year of continuous advocacy by DCTC to bring the DOC into compliance with the gender identity and gender expression provisions of the District’s Human Rights Act.
Upon receiving the new policy, we compared the trans community’s demands with the DOC’s final document. Overall, we feel this new policy is an important step in the right direction, but falls short of meeting the spirit and intent of the law.
DCTC members began expressing their concerns to the DOC over its treatment of transgender inmates in January 2008. In April 2008, the D.C. inspector general found that the DOC was not complying with the D.C. Human Rights Act as it applies to protections for gender identity and gender expression.
Acting under the advice of Attorney General Nickles, the D.C. Human Rights Commission issued a proposed rule last July exempting District custodial agencies from these important provisions. During the public comment period, DCTC gathered comments from nearly 200 D.C. residents opposing the proposed changes — no public comments were submitted in support of these rule changes. DCTC members met twice more with DOC officials over the summer, but attempts at negotiation were rebuffed by the government.
THIS CHAIN OF events led DCTC to formally oppose Nickles’ nomination as attorney general and compelled D.C. Council members to insist that Nickles meet with members of the District’s transgender community in an effort to develop an acceptable policy. A series of meetings soon followed with Nickles, representatives from the DOC and community members negotiating the substance of a revised gender classification and housing policy.
While we at DCTC feel it was very important for community members to be involved in shaping this policy, we would be remiss if we failed to note that the negotiation process was driven almost entirely by Nickles and his staff. He set the timeline by which the process needed to conclude and DOC issued the policy abruptly with no warning, precluding further negotiation. As a result of the expedited timeline, the DCTC and its partners were unable to get sufficient feedback on the document from those most disenfranchised — transgender individuals who have spent time in D.C.’s jails. We therefore consider the policy issued last month to be a starting point for further discussion, not a conclusion.
NICKLES IS RIGHT to assert that this policy makes D.C. one of the few jurisdictions in the country that provides for gender appropriate housing for transgender inmates. It also includes important provisions regarding respectful treatment of transgender inmates, new protocols for how strip searches will be conducted and ensures transgender people will have access to hormones while incarcerated.
Recognizing these important changes, we strongly believe that additional improvements can and should be made to the policy as we continue moving forward. In the meantime, we want to ensure the new policy translates from paper to practice. DCTC is currently working with our community partners to make that happen. To that end, we are organizing a transgender community forum on March 29 at the Metropolitan Community Church at 2 p.m. It is our goal to gather both reactions to the revised policy as written, as well as any preliminary information regarding its implementation.
With the information gained from the forum, we intend to begin a more thorough review of the gender classification and housing policy’s implementation and will continue to advocate for improvement where it is necessary.
Should you wish to become more involved with this campaign, or if you are interested in helping out with the DCTC’s March 29 community forum, please be sure to contact the D.C. Trans Coalition at firstname.lastname@example.org.