Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 3 / 18 January 2018

SF sheriff finalizes trans program, housing policy

San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi. Photo: Jane Philomen Cleland

San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi. Photo: Jane Philomen Cleland

San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi has finalized plans to stop classifying transgender inmates who have not had surgery according to their birth sex. The move, which is part of a pilot program resulting from meetings between transgender advocates and city staff, means that trans women will no longer be housed with men.

It will take at least a few months for the housing transitions to begin, but in the meantime, transgender inmates will have access to programming that other people in jail already get to participate in, the sheriff’s department said in its policy dated Tuesday, September 1.

In an interview Tuesday, Mirkarimi said he aims to start moving transgender women out of male housing before the end of the year.

The policy addresses training for staff and other inmates and assessing transgender inmates’ needs, among other topics.

Mirkarimi’s office “is deeply committed to recognizing and respecting all people’s gender identities,” the document says. It also refers to the federal Prison Rape Elimination Act. The 2012 federal standards are meant to help stop sexual abuse of inmates.

“Those regulations address the safety and treatment of inmates who have been victims of sexual assault and the discipline and prosecution of those who commit these acts,” the department says, adding it “has a zero tolerance policy towards all forms of sexual abuse and sexual harassment.”

The sheriff’s department “recognizes that increasing educational and vocational opportunities is paramount to reducing recidivism and helping offenders successfully re-enter their communities,” the policy, which describes the agency as “a national leader” for its programs, says. “Just as importantly, it will allow all inmates to preserve their dignity during a period of incarceration.”

The “unprecedented action” has already started, with Mirkarimi directing that transgender people currently housed at County Jail 4, a men’s facility, will have opportunities to participate in programming at County Jail 2, which houses cis women.

“Case managers and program staff are identifying what programs will be most appropriate for the identified inmates,” the sheriff’s office says. Gender non-conforming people will be classified and their treatment plans will be “developed on a case by case basis.”

The policy says, “Any change to current protocol involves reorienting and retraining the way staff operate and training in cultural competency. The manner in which inmates view and understand transgender inmates must also be retrained. Modeling respective behavior, providing continued close supervision of inmates, and promptly intervening to interrupt any disrespect, harassment, or abuse of inmates is essential to ensure the safety and security of the facility as a whole.”

An advisory review board will identify program participants before the implementation.

The group will consider the inmate’s self-identification, criminal history, current charges, medical information, psychiatric stability, and other factors as it makes decisions.

The board will consist of people form the sheriff’s department and a community member who has to be approved by the sheriff.

A case manager will assess people’s needs and inform Mirkarimi’s agency on which programs are “most appropriate.” Current opportunities include the Five Keys Charter School, self-esteem groups, job training, re-entry classes, drug and alcohol abuse education, social service referrals, and exercise sessions.

In addressing training for staff, the document says, “Deputies shall complete culturally competent training on transgender and gender non-conforming issues.”

The training curriculum is meant to ensure that deputies respect inmates’ identities by using the correct pronouns and allowing access “to gender affirming items.”

Among other elements, the training will also include educating sworn staff “to ensure appropriate actions are taken to address violence against or harassment of transgender inmates.”

The policy also covers transgender men, but the jail population generally sees more trans women inmates.

— Seth Hemmelgarn, September 2, 2015 @ 2:57 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized

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