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Letter to NYS Sheriffs Urges Immediate Adoption of Model Jail Policies on Lawful Treatment of Transgender People in Custody

NEW YORK – The New York Civil Liberties Union and the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund (TLDEF) sent a letter today to all New York Sheriffs urging them to adopt new policies regarding the treatment of transgender people in custody consistent with the recent Makyyla Holland settlement, and warning against costly litigation and settlements arising from inadequate or nonexistent policies.

Makyyla Holland is a transgender woman who was discriminated against and denied medical care—including hormone treatment—while in custody at the Broome County Jail in 2021. In August 2023, Broome County agreed to a wide-sweeping policy that affirms and clarifies the rights of transgender people with respect to housing placement, access to medical care, searches, and freedom from harassment and discrimination. Ms. Holland’s settlement builds on the 2020 policy adopted by Steuben County following the NYCLU and TLDEF’s lawsuit on behalf of Jena Faith.

“At a time when trans people are increasingly under attack across the country, it is even more important for our local governments to act now and affirmatively protect trans people in custody,” said Gabriella Larios, staff attorney with the New York Civil Liberties Union. “No one should experience the discrimination Ms. Holland and Ms. Faith faced while incarcerated. With our letter, we are urging every sheriff in New York to treat transgender individuals in custody with dignity, and warning of the possible consequences of not doing so, including costly litigation and settlements.”

“This letter puts sheriffs across the state of New York on notice about how to prevent violence and discrimination against transgender people in their facilities and that they could be on the hook for failing to prevent this kind of abuse. All law enforcement has a legal and a moral obligation to ensure the safety, health, and well-being of the transgender people in their custody,” said Shayna Medley, Senior Litigation Staff Attorney at the Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund.

Across New York State, transgender people are often held unlawfully in facilities that are not consistent with their gender identity, denied access to gender-affirming health care, misgendered, and subjected to discriminatory commissary and grooming policies. These types of mistreatment lead to lasting physical and emotional harm. To help address this widespread mistreatment, the NYCLU has developed this toolkit.

Learn more about Ms. Holland and Ms. Faith’s settlements here:  

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