WXXI AM News

Lawyer for transgender woman hopeful settlement will affect jail policies

Aug 14, 2020

An attorney for a transgender woman who sued Steuben County hopes the settlement reached in the case last week will change jail policies in the future.

Jena Faith sued after being held in a men’s facility while awaiting trial last year.

Faith said she was held in the women’s side of the jail for a few days before being moved to the men’s side. She said she was denied her medication and suffered sexual harassment from other detained people and also said the guards were not responsive to her complaints.

New York state law requires prisons and jails to house incarcerated people in facilities consistent with their gender identity. The New York Civil Liberties Union sued the county along with the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund, and the law firm BakerHostetler.

Bobby Hodgson, a staff attorney with the New York Civil Liberties Union, said while a settlement does not exactly set a legal precedent, Steuben County will adopt a more specific policy regarding the rights of trans people who are incarcerated.

“This is a policy that addresses housing placement, safety, access to medical care, name and pronoun use, search procedures,” Hodgson explained.

Steuben County Sheriff Jim Allard did not return an interview request.

The NYCLU said the New York State Sheriffs’ Association helped negotiate the settlement. Hodgson hopes the association's involvement means other counties across the state will adopt the policy.

“This is a model that can be used by jurisdictions around the state by jails, by prisons, by other places that want to make sure that they’re following the law when it comes to protecting the rights of trans and gender nonconforming people in their custody,” said Hodgson.

Faith, who is recognized as a woman on government documents, by the VA medical center, and by family and friends, expressed that without these rights, trans people will continue to be victims of harassment and violence.