On Friday, December 16, 2011, DCTC filed a friend of the court brief in the case of De’Lonta v. Johnson urging the Richmond-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit to find that the Virginia Department of Correction’s housing policy for transgender inmates violates the Equal Protection, Due Process and Cruel and Unusual Punishment clauses of the U.S. Constitution. VDOC’s current policy is to assign inmates to male or female facilities based solely on their genitals, without taking into consideration where they would be safest. The failure to treat transgender women in the same way that non-transgender women are treated is discriminatory, the brief argues. Further, the brief alleges that automatic placement of transgender women into facilities where they are at high risk of being sexually abused is cruel and unusual punishment and the lack of availability of an appeal procedure deprives inmates of due process. Many jurisdictions, including the District of Columbia, have implemented policies that are more flexible and sensitive to the needs of transgender inmates, according to DCTC’s brief. The federal Bureau of Prisons is expected to follow DC’s lead by mandating individualized determinations of where to house transgender inmates and detainees when Department of Justice regulations implementing the Prison Rape Elimination Act are finalized.
You can read our brief in full below:
After a brutal summer, we are excited to share some positive results from our collective struggle to improve the lives of trans folks in the District. After talks between trans advocates and D.C. Mayor Gray, 21 trans individuals are participating in Project Empowerment’s pilot program to combat transphobic discrimination. NPR has an in-depth look.
DCTC is doing all we can to support the participants and make it a success. We are very excited to be part of this ground-breaking effort to address unemployment in our communities, and we hope the District will continue to fund similar potentially life-saving resources.
In response to the recent string of violence, we’ve received an unprecedented amount of letters of support in the past few weeks. We are looking forward to a busy fall, so if you’re thinking about getting involved now is a great time! We are gearing up for our next semi-annual Community Forum, tentatively scheduled for October 23rd. Here is a bit more news from our active campaigns…
- We just passed a major hurdle toward receiving funding so that we can begin Phase Two. Our Needs Assessment Working Group is in the process of designing the paper survey that will soon be distributed. If you’d like to help out, they meet on the second and third Tuesdays of the month. Click here to learn more.
- In case you missed it, be sure to check out the critically important results from our community roundtable discussions at the Phase One Summary Report.
- DCTC members recently attended the first ever meeting of the D.C. Department of Corrections Transgender Advisory Council, a new body meant to increase transparency and community oversight into how the DOC is handling trans inmates. We will have more updates shortly!
- A Corrections officer is currently being investigated for issuing death threats against two trans women. We are following this case closely.
Responding to Violence and Hate Crimes
- DCTC is continuing to work with community members in response to the many recent instances of violence involving trans women and/or motivated by transphobia. Click here, here and here to see media interviews with DCTC members.
- Adding to our fears that the string of murders was motivated by bias, the makeshift memorial to Lashai Mcclean that was left at the site she was murdered (and near where two other trans women were shot weeks later) has been burned.
- The death of Gaurav Gopalan was recently ruled a homicide.
- An arrest was made in the shooting of a trans woman in Southeast.
- We are working with our allies at Transgender Health Empowerment and elsewhere to organize this year’s Trans Day of Remembrance and other events around November 20th. If you’d like to help, watch for an announcement about the next TDOR Planning Meeting.
- Members of DCTC have recently attended early meetings with other community organizations who are working to create a new coalition called TLGB Police Watch.
- We maintain regular communication with the Metropolitan Police Department to express our concern about transphobia in MPD. We want to make sure that officers are being properly trained, and we want MPD to take the recent crimes against trans people seriously.
- We are preparing to conduct another round of training for the Gay & Lesbian Liaison Unit.
- We continue to monitor the legal case against Officer Furr, who recently shot at a group of trans people and their friends while off-duty.
This morning, DCTC is testifying before the DC Council’s Judiciary Committee at a hearing on “population management” within the DC Department of Corrections. In our testimony, we call for:
- Increasing the volunteer pool for DOC’s transgender housing committee, and releasing a public list of approved volunteers;
- Improving transparency and data collection, so that we know exactly how many trans people are incarcerated;
- Developing alternatives to incarceration, especially for non-violent offenses.
You can read our full statement here. Today’s hearing is at 11:00am in room 412 of the John A. Wilson Building, at 1350 Pennsylvania Avenue NW.
Last week, newly-elected Mayor Gray’s Director of the Office of GLBT Affairs, Jeffrey Richardson, attended a DC Trans Coalition meeting. Members of DCTC educated the Director about the needs of trans communities in the District, and we were assured that trans people (along with youth and aging LGBT people) would be among the administration’s top concerns.
For the occasion, DCTC prepared a list of priorities for the Gray Administration, and shared this with the Director. We broke it down by agency and listed the most pressing and achievable goals for each. Among our list were:
- End the Prostitution Free Zones and move toward decriminalizing sex work;
- Nominate one or more trans people to serve on the Commission on Human Rights;
- Enforce the gender-neutral bathroom provisions of the DC Human Rights Act;
- Restore funding to vital trans-sensitive social services like HIPS and T.H.E.;
- Develop plans to address unemployment in the trans community;
- Expand the Dept. of Corrections and MPD trans policies to include other criminal justice agencies in the District;
- Fund the DC Trans Needs Assessment
..and much more. You can read the comprehensive list here.
- Thursday, April 14, 6:30pm: Hate Crimes Town Hall with MPD, the Mayor’s Office of LGBT Affairs, and the DC Attorney General — Community Room @ Reeves Center, 14th & U Streets NW
- Tuesday, April 19, 7:30pm: Bi-monthly DCTC Meeting — Austin Center @ Whitman Walker Clinic, 14th & R Streets NW
- Thursday, April 21, 12:00noon: Rally for a Bully Free DC — Front Steps @ The Wilson Building, 1350 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
- Tuesday, April 26, 7:30pm: Needs Assessment Working Group — Soho Coffee, 22nd & P Streets NW
- Tuesday, May 3, 7:30pm: Bi-monthly DCTC Meeting — Austin Center @ Whitman Walker Clinic, 14th & R Streets NW
What we’ve been up to
As always, we value your input and your help! If you want to get involved in a project, write to firstname.lastname@example.org or call us at 202.681.DCTC (202.681.3282), or better yet, come to a meeting!
. The DC Department of Corrections is currently taking applications for trans community representatives on the DOC’s transgender housing committee
. It’s super important that lots of folks apply! The transgender housing committee determines where trans inmates are safely housed. To apply, please send a resume and cover letter explaining why you’re a good fit for this role to Carolyn Cross, Deputy Director of the Department of Corrections, at 1923 Vermont Avenue NW, Suite 112 North, Washington, DC 20001 or by email at email@example.com
Police Liaison. Last month we submitted testimony to the DC Council about the work of the MPD over the past year. Check out one of the things we talked about! We also continue to train officers in the Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit. Be sure to come to the Hate Crimes Town Hall this Thursday (details above) to make your voice heard! If there’s something you want to say to the police department, this is a good time to say it!
. We’re now a part of the DC Safe Schools Coalition and are working hard to get a strong anti-bullying law passed by the DC Council. Show your support at the rally on April 21
(details above there too), and make sure the Council and the Mayor know how important it is to keep youth safe in school.
Needs Assessment. We’ve nearly completed our community roundtable meetings! Our goal is to explore and document many issues facing members of the trans community, and we’re currently holding roundtable discussions with trans communities throughout DC as the first phase of the project. If you would like to participate in a roundtable or volunteer to help plan phase two (launching a survey), please write to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Trans Pride. Our friends at Capital Trans Pride are gearing up a day of exciting events on Saturday, June 4. Check out their page on Facebook!
Following our hard-pressed victory for an improved policy at the District of Columbia Department of Corrections, the Cook County Jail (Chicago-area) has announced it is implementing a similar policy. Like DC, the jail will handle each housing decision individually by creating a committee that gives trans inmates the option of being housed where they feel safest, including in facilities congruent with their gender identity.
We echo the concerns of Chicagoans who are calling for greater input from local trans communities regarding the implementation of this policy, and the sensitivity training it mandates. However, this is a great step toward respecting the human rights of trans detainees.
Click here to read the full story on the Windy City Times.
In internal documents obtained via a Freedom of Information Act request, DCTC caught the Metropolitan Police Department and the Department of Corrections breaking their own rules. In an e-mail exchange about the improper housing of a trans woman, officials seemed more concerned about embarrassing media coverage than solving the rampant transphobia on their force. Amanda Hess at TBD has more on the story (reprinted below the cut): “D.C. police e-mails concerned with bad press, trans rights.”
Continue reading “When trans people speak out, the criminal justice system can’t help but listen up.”