SAN FRANCISCO — Transgender women will be housed with other female inmates in the San Francisco jail system by the end of this year.
The new policy was announced by Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi on Thursday. A key component of the new policy is that it covers inmates that have not yet had gender confirmation surgery..
Transgender women will begin participating in programs like substance abuses groups and high school classes with other female inmates in the next few weeks. Transwomen will then be moved into women’s facilities by the end of the year, after jail staff receive new training on how to deal with the physical and mental needs of trans inmates.
The San Francisco County Jail system will be the first county jail system in the nation to house transgender inmates in this fashion.
Transgender inmates are currently segregated from the general jail population. There are six transgender women at the jail. The final step to change the housing clarification will also include transgender men. Statistics for the number of transmen in the jail system were not available.
California’s state prison system only puts transgender people in new facilities when their transition is complete, Mirkarimi’s plan will allow pre-operative transgender inmates permanently into new populations. “Some will still have their penis,” Mirkarimi said, to make it clear what the new classification will immediately mean. He neglected to mention if transmen would still have their breasts before being moved.
“The conventional practice of municipal jails and prisons in this country is to make invisible, suppress or isolate inmates who are transgender,” Mirkarimi said.
Eugene Cerbone, head of the Sheriff’s Deputy Union doesn’t think the first step in the plan is a bad idea, except in cases where women aren’t supervised by deputies but he’s concerned about transgender women eventually living with women if they haven’t fully transitioned. “I will not support a safety issue where you’re going to have men who still have their genitalia tell me that ‘Oh I’m female’ just so they can get in the female unit,” he said.
“The issue is safety for the transgender [people], but he is making it like an experiment,” Cerbone said of Mirkarimi.
Not everyone in the transgender community are completely behind the plan.
Flor Bermudez, of the Transgender Law Center said the interim plan to move transgender women back-and-forth between the men’s and women’s facilities to attend classes is troubling. That, says Bermudez, will only expose those inmates to further danger. “In fact, we don’t believe it solves the problem at all,” said Bermudez, who instead thinks the housing plan should start immediately because the interim plan “in fact makes them targets of further abuse.”
“Trans people face sexual assault as victims more often than as perpetrators by large, large percentages,” Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, told the San Francisco Examiner in 2014. “It is a horrible, horrible epidemic.”
A 2014 ACLU report on transgender jail issues said transgender people should be housed in facilities based on federal law requiring placement decisions according to individualized assessment.
The state prison system currently has 363 male-to-female inmates receiving hormone treatment and 22 female-to-male getting hormone treatment.