Texas Did Something Right: New Law Protects LGBT Inmates

by Katie Fustich

Texas isn’t exactly #1 when it comes to progressive policy-making. Recent legislation has disenfranchised lady-voters and made it nearly impossible to access a safe and legal abortion. Finally, the twinkle of hope we’ve been waiting for has emerged! Harris County, the jail serving the Houston area of Texas, has adopted comprehensive policy that states “discrimination or harassment of any kind based on sexual orientation or gender identity is strictly prohibited.”

This law also extends the right to transgender inmates to choose to be housed based on the gender with which they identify, not their biological gender. Furthermore, their chosen name will appear on their identification bracelets and be used to address them. Intersex inmates now also have similar rights. 

80 staff members of the Harris County Jail are being trained as “gender classification specialists.” It sounds a little goofy, but the intention is to facilitate healthy and productive discussions about gender issues.

Harper Jean Tobin, director of policy for the Washington-based National Center for Transgender Equality, has been working with Harris County since July 2012 to develop this policy. Though Texas is known for pride in its ultra-conservative political stance, Tobin wants everyone to know this isn’t about the politics, it’s about the people:

“It is an issue of preventing violence, of meeting the state’s legal and moral responsibilities to keep people safe and safeguarding public funds that when sexual abuse happens in prison need to be spent on medical care and mental health care and recovery,” said Tobin. 

I can’t believe I’m saying this, but…three cheers for Texas!


Thanks to News Sentinel

Image via Houston Criminal Law Journal 

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