The New York Civil Liberties Union, Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund, and the law firm of BakerHostetler filed suit against Steuben County, the Steuben County Sheriff, and several officials and employees at the Steuben County Jail on behalf of a transgender woman whom jail officials housed in a men’s facility while she was awaiting trial.
Jena Faith, a military veteran, spent four weeks in Steuben County jail awaiting trial. She was initially housed in the jail’s women’s facility without incident. Officials abruptly transferred her to the men’s facility, despite that she has been recognized in all aspects of her life as a woman for many years, including the gender marker on her New York driver’s license and U.S. Social Security records. In the men’s facility she suffered sexual harassment from other incarcerated individuals, mistreatment at the hands of guards, and denial of medication prescribed by her physician.
The lawsuit was settled with an agreement with Steuben County, New York that establishes one of the strongest jail or prison policies in the country protecting the rights of transgender, gender nonconforming, nonbinary, and intersex people in custody. The policy addresses housing placement, safety, access to medical care, name and pronouns use, search procedures, and grooming standards. It was negotiated with the involvement of the New York State Sheriffs’ Association and can serve as a model for jails across New York state and the country.
Under the settlement, the county commits itself to upholding the dignity and respect of transgender people by changing its jail policies to comply with federal and state laws. Specifically, the county will:
- Presumptively house people consistent with their gender identity.
- Ensure that staff at the jail respect a person’s self-identified gender identity in all other contexts, including name and pronoun use, and searches.
- Ensure access to clothing, toiletry items, and grooming standards consistent with a person’s gender identity.
- Ensure access to medical care consistent with a person’s gender identity.
- Compensate Ms. Faith for harms she suffered, in the amount of $60,000.