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The jail’s new non-discrimination policy

Not sure why I haven’t seen this story in the Chronicle.

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.

Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia’s office believes the new policy is one of the most comprehensive in the country. It states that “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.

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., behind Los Angeles and Chicago’s Cook County, and processes some 125,000 inmates annually. Other major jails, including those in Los Angeles, Denver and Washington, D.C., 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. The state agency 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 and was the culmination of a thorough review that began in July 2012.


In officially announcing the policy on Thursday, Garcia said Harris County — like other municipalities that deal with federal law enforcement agencies — is required to comply with the Prison Rape Elimination Act signed by President George W. Bush.

But the sheriff noted that Harris County implemented the changes ahead of schedule.

“We stay ahead of the curve, we respect the public’s rights, we embrace innovation and best practices, looking for chances to lead to be a model 21st century law enforcement agency,” he said.

A copy of the press release is here, a copy of the policy on discrimination in the workplace is here, and a copy of the policy regarding LGBTI inmates is here. According to the story, about 250 inmates, or a bit less than three percent of the total population, identifies as LGBT. Their rights, which include the right to not be beaten up or raped, should be as protected as anyone else’s. Kudos to the Sheriff’s Office for being ahead of the curve on this. Equality Texas and Texpatriate have more.

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One Comment

  1. […] here for the background. Everyone quoted is positive about the policy overall, but some have concerns […]