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Transgender Persons at the Dallas County Jail

Mar 1st, 2020 | Category: Uncategorized

The following article provides an overview of Trans Pride Initiative’s work to improve policy and conditions for trans and gender diverse persons since 2014.

TPI began advocating for the Dallas County Sheriff’s Office (DSO) to create a policy for transgender and intersex persons in 2014. During initial efforts, we learned that trans persons were being housed in solitary confinement “for their own safety.” In one case, solitary confinement lasted about nine months—the story we helped bring to light would eventually be included in the Voice of Witness book Six by Ten and in a BuzzFeed article “I’m A Trans Woman. Solitary Confinement Didn’t Protect Me In Prison.” Due to a lack of response from the DSO in early 2014, TPI researched policies around the nation and compiled what we considered then a “model policy.” That policy was provided to the DSO in August 2014 to encourage policy development. We also brought in staff from the Department of Justice (DoJ) Community Relations Service to help push the issue. The DSO disregarded our suggestions and came up with a problematic policy draft, so we tried to encourage improvements to that draft.

In 2015 the DSO began refusing to respond to our requests to address issues in the proposed policy. The DSO tried to get TPI to co-sign a proclamation with the DoJ and the DSO stating that the sheriff was working with the community. Doing so would have brought attention to TPI’s work, but based on our information at that time, we did not feel the DSO had done enough to address the issues. We withheld our agreement until we had additional proof that the sheriff was actually implementing an effective policy.

TPI was not informed that a policy was finalized until 2018, when a 2017 version was made available to us (see link below). We learned in 2019 that an initial policy appears to have been put in place in March 2015 (see link below), even though as mentioned we were not informed.

The policy, “Interacting with Transgender / Intersex / Gender Non-Conforming Individuals,” covers both jail operations and street (or field) interactions, and it governs not just DSO personnel, but Dallas Police Department staff as well. This policy is fairly close to the “model policy” developed by TPI in 2014. The policy was updated once again in January 2019 (only minor changes; see link below).

Things to note about the policy, which again should be followed by both DSO and Dallas Police Department staff, include the following:

  • All interactions should be appropriate to a person’s gender expression, and should use affirming pronouns. Affirming names will be used on request regardless of what is shown on identity documentation.
  • All officers are prohibited from stopping, detaining, frisking, or searching a person for the purpose of determining or calling attention to a person’s gender or gender expression.
  • All officers are prohibited from disclosing a person’s trans or intersex identity without a legitimate law enforcement purpose.
  • If a person being arrested identifies as female, a female officer will be requested to come to the location to conduct the search.
  • Legal gender—not birth gender—must be recorded on all legal documents. NOTE that TPI has seen clear evidence that this is not done by DSO staff.
  • At intake, you will not be strip searched to determine your genitalia. NOTE that TPI has a number of reports that searches of trans persons are regularly done at the jail to determine genital configuration.
  • The guards are required to use the pronouns you specify on the “Search Preference and Preferred Gender Form.” NOTE that TPI has received reports this is not done.
  • Anyone covered by the policy has a right to submit a written request to have a Transgender Review Board address any concerns, complaints, or requests for a change of housing during incarceration. The complainant must state if they want an LGBTQI community representative at the meeting. TPI has many times asked for pre-authorization to participate in such a meeting but the DSO has denied pre-authorization, in part claiming it is unnecessary because no one has ever requested Transgender Review Board consideration. We believe this information is not being provided or appropriately provided to persons going through intake. Please exercise your right to this policy if you have housing or other concerns, and demand that an LGBTQI community representative participate in any board proceedings!

The series of orders and policies we currently have may be accessed here:

  • Special Order Memorandum and initial policy, 2015
  • Dallas County Sheriff’s Office Trans and Intersex Policy: 2016, 2017, 2019
  • Dallas County Sheriff’s Office Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) Policy: 2016, 2019
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