Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

D.C. Jail to Institute Changes to Transgender Housing Policy in Lawsuit Settlement


Following a March 23 settlement in a class-action lawsuit brought by Sunday Hinton, a transgender woman who was held in a male unit by the D.C. Central Detention Facility (CDF), the D.C. Department of Corrections (DOC) agreed to institute changes to its transgender housing policy. 

The terms of the settlement require the DOC to house people according to their gender identity preference and to make determinations about whether transgender inmates should be placed in protective custody on a case-by-case basis within 24 hours. The DOC also agreed to post its transgender housing policy on its website within 30 days of the settlement.

Hinton spent four weeks in the D.C. Jail in May 2021 before her trial on a charge of unarmed burglary with the intent to steal $20. The charge against Hinton has since been dismissed. 

For over two weeks of her incarceration, Hinton was forced to stay in a men’s unit and was moved to a women’s unit on the Correctional Treatment Facility (CTF) side of the D.C. Jail after filing a lawsuit.

The DOC changed its policies in June 2021 to begin assigning housing for transgender individuals by their gender identity. However, Hinton and her legal team argued that these new policies were unjust, as the jail placed transgender inmates in protective custody instead of the unit corresponding to their gender identity upon their arrival to the jail.

The policy changes resulting from the settlement will improve the treatment of future transgender inmates, according to Scott Michelman, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Washington, D.C.

“We believe that the changes are significant,” Michelman wrote to The Hoya. “The elimination of the anatomy presumption last summer for housing trans intakes will stop DOC from trying to deny trans folks’ identity and meaningfully reduce trans folks’ risk of harm in custody. And the elimination of the shackling requirement will stop trans folks from being held in a dehumanizing way upon their arrival at the jail.”

According to the ACLU, an estimated 40 to 60 transgender people were detained in the D.C. Jail in 2021, almost all of whom were housed based on sex instead of gender identity.

DOC will begin regularly sending reports regarding transgender inmates and their treatment to the Public Defender Service for D.C. (PDS). PDS and the ACLU of D.C. represented Hinton in her case.

This settlement will institute necessary changes to ensure humane treatment of transgender inmates, according to PDS Staff Attorney Rachel Cicurel in a March 23 press release announcing the settlement.

“Sunday Hinton’s courageous fight against discrimination has led to important changes not only for transgender individuals but for all protective custody jail residents, who until now were subjected to the degrading and unjustified practice of full-body shackling,” Cicurel said in the press release. “Ms. Hinton’s case has exposed several kinds of inhumane treatment by DOC.”

DOC will also end its policy of shackling transgender inmates, which the ACLU argued violated transgender inmates’ rights under the D.C. Human Rights Act. Hinton’s lawyers argued that the DOC’s policies regarding housing transgender inmates violated federal regulations under the Prison Rape Elimination Act.

DC Department of Corrections/Facebook | The D.C. Department of Corrections will make changes to their transgender housing policies after a settlement was reached in a class action lawsuit brought by Sunday Hinton, a transgender woman who was held in a male unit in May 2021.

The new policies will reform conditions for all inmates in D.C. Jail, but it is still important that the D.C. Council implements independent oversight of the DOC, according to Michelman.

“The changes will also protect other people in custody from the degrading practice of full body shackling,” Michelman wrote. “Given the conditions documented by the Marshals last fall, it’s crucial for the D.C. Council to hold DOC accountable for its unlawful actions — starting by empowering an independent oversight body with unrestricted access to the jail to regularly report to the Council and the public on conditions and treatment at the jail.”

According to Hinton in a March 23 press release, the settlement will hopefully ensure no other transgender inmates have to endure the same conditions that she did.

“No one should face what I had to face at the D.C. Jail,” Hinton said in the press release. “DOC put my safety and mental health at risk, and I’m glad that other trans people at the Jail will be treated with more dignity.”

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