BakerHostetler Team Helps Secure Landmark Settlement Protecting Rights of Transgender Persons Held in Prisons or Jails

News / August 5, 2020

A team of BakerHostetler attorneys (Partner Ted Jacobs and Associates Amanda Van Hoose Garofalo, Michael Sabella, Jordan Silversmith and Michelle Tanney) partnered with the Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund (TLDEF) and the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) to reach a landmark settlement in an action against Steuben County, N.Y. and other parties. That settlement resulted in a robust jail or prison placement policy that will protect the rights of transgender, gender nonconforming, nonbinary, and intersex people in custody.

The lawsuit was commenced in 2019 on behalf of Jena Faith, a transgender woman and military veteran. Faith 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, and solely because she is transgender. Faith has been recognized as a woman in all aspects of her personal and public life for many years and is identified as female on 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.

BakerHostetler, acting as pro bono counsel, partnered with TLDEF and NYCLU to commence litigation on behalf of Faith, alleging that the way she was treated by the Jail violated her civil rights. The team worked with defendants to settle the litigation, resulting in $60,000 in compensation for Faith and a prison or jail housing policy, negotiated with the involvement of the New York State Sheriffs’ Association, that can serve as a model for jails across New York State and the country.

Under the policy, which addresses housing placement, safety, access to medical care, name and pronouns use, search procedures, and grooming standards, Steuben County has committed to upholding the dignity and respect of transgender people by changing its jail policies to comply with federal and state laws. Specifically, the Jail will:

  • Presumptively house people consistent with their gender identity.
  • Ensure that jail staff 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.

The settlement was announced on August 5, 2020.