Texas County Adopts Policy to Protect LGBT Jail Inmates
HOUSTON -- The sheriff of Houston’s Harris County has adopted a sweeping policy designed to protect and guarantee equal treatment of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender inmates, including allowing transgender individuals to be housed based on the gender they identify with instead of their biological sex.
The new policy, which Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia’s office believes to be one of the most comprehensive in the country, states "discrimination or harassment of any kind based on sexual orientation or gender identity is strictly prohibited," and outlines how such inmates will be searched, booked and housed, according to a copy of the policy obtained by The Associated Press ahead of an official announcement Thursday.
The policy also covers intersex inmates, defined as people born with sex chromosomes or reproductive systems that are not considered standard.
Houston has the third-largest county jail in the U.S., after Los Angeles and Chicago’s Cook County, and processes some 125,000 inmates annually. Other major jails, including L.A., Washington, D.C., and Denver, have taken similar steps to meet new federal standards for protecting inmates from sexual abuse and assault.
But Harris County is the first in Texas to adopt this extensive of a policy, according to Brandon Wood, executive director of the Texas Commission on Jail Standards, a state agency that inspects, regulates and provides technical assistance to county jails.
The 11-page policy, along with a separate three-page document protecting this population from workplace discrimination, went into effect Wednesday.