Sheriff reforms transgender inmate procedures

The San Francisco’s Sheriff’s Department has vowed to make key changes to procedures involving jailed inmates who identify as transgender, San Francisco’s Supervisor Jeff Sheehy’s office said Thursday.

The reforms came about after Sheehy sent a letter of inquiry to Sheriff Vicki Hennessey for an update on policy for inmates who identify as transgender, gender-variant and intersex, according to sheriff’s department spokeswoman Eileen Hirst.

According to Sheehy’s office, the improvements will ensure that all inmates are treated humanely and with respect, regardless of their gender identity.

Among the changes to be implemented, the sheriff’s department will begin using new forms allowing individuals to declare their preferred name and accurate gender identity, in addition to allowing people in custody to indicate a gender preference for the sheriff’s deputy who will search them.

Those new forms will be rolled out starting next month, Hirst said.

Also, the sheriff’s department will continue ongoing, improved training sessions for sheriff’s department management, as well as deputies, on how to appropriately interact with all individuals. The training sessions, which have already begun, will be completed by the end of June, according to Hirst.

Lastly, the sheriff’s department will work with the Board of Supervisors to secure body scanners, replacing strip searches for individuals in custody. The body scanners could come as early as July, Hirst said.

“The Sheriff’s Department remains committed to treating all persons with dignity and respect,” Hennessy said in a statement. “We look forward to continue working with the community and the Board of Supervisors to improve our policies and operations in response to community needs.”

In previous years, inmates identifying as transgender,

gender-variant or intersex, were housed in County Jail #4, on the seventh floor of the Hall of Justice. There, trans inmates were reportedly subjected to taunts and other forms of physical and emotional harassment, Sheehy’s office said.

With the new reforms, inmates identifying as trans, gender variant or intersex will now be moved to a separate housing unit, segregated from the men’s housing, resulting in further protection and a more humane approach to their imprisonment.

“We must ensure this progress continues through the use of modern technology and the construction of proper housing that meets the needs of all persons in custody,” Sheehy said in a statement.

“This process has never been implemented in any other jail in the United States,” Mayor Ed Lee’s Senior Advisor on trans issues, Theresa Sparks, said in a statement. “We’re very optimistic that this is going to make a significant difference for a very vulnerable population.”