BATH, N.Y. (WETM) – Steuben County has paid a county jail inmate $60,000 as part of a settlement following a lawsuit alleging she was discriminated against because she is transgender.
The settlement, which was announced by the New York Civil Liberties Union on Wednesday morning, also establishes standards for jails when it comes to transgender inmates.
The agreement comes as a result of a 2019 lawsuit filed on behalf of Jena Faith, a transgender woman and military veteran, who spent four weeks in the Steuben County Jail awaiting trial. While she was originally housed in the women’s facility, she was transferred to the men’s facility without warning, despite the fact that she is a woman, solely because she is transgender. Ms. Faith has been recognized as a woman in all aspects of her life for many years, from her daily interactions with friends and family to the gender marker on her New York- and U.S.-issued IDs. While in the men’s facility, she was subjected to sexual harassment, abuse, and denial of her prescribed medication.NYCLU
“I feel so relieved that the county is acknowledging the harm it caused me and taking steps to ensure this does not happen to anyone else,” said Jena Faith. “No one should ever be subjected to the cruelty and harassment I endured. Everyone housed in detention facilities deserves to be treated with dignity and respect, including transgender people. I hope my case will help others, not only in Steuben County, but also across New York and beyond.”
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.
“Across the state, transgender people are routinely and illegally held in facilities that are not consistent with their gender identity,” said Bobby Hodgson, staff attorney at the New York Civil Liberties Union. “This agreement establishes one of the strongest jail or prison anti-discrimination policies in the country and creates a solid framework that officials across the state should look to as they adjust their own policies to comply with the law.”
The full settlement can be read below:
2020-07-22 Faith Final Settlement Agreement Redacted by WETM on Scribd
“I am extremely proud of our corrections staff who recognized that conducting business only in strict accordance with the NYS Minimum Standards of County Jails and Lockups is sometimes not enough. When the NYS guidance falls short, it is up to all of us to search for other methods to meet the needs of all citizens” stated Sheriff Allard. “I am grateful to all of the contributors who helped create this policy and grateful that Steuben County was able to lead the way”.
“Steuben County, along with the Sheriff’s Office, have a long history of maintaining high standards for all operations,” said County Manager Jack Wheeler. “This requires continuous review of policies and practices of all departments to ensure compliance with federal and state regulations, resulting in high-quality services our residents and stakeholders expect and deserve.