Steuben News: County reaches $60,000 settlement with transgender inmate

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Steuben County paid a county jail inmate $60,000 following a 2019 lawsuit that alleged the inmate was discriminated against on the basis of her gender identity.

The New York Civil Liberties Union announced the settlement on Aug. 5. The settlement, which included the payment, also established guidelines for jails to follow with transgender inmates.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Jena Faith, a transgender woman and military veteran. Faith awaited her trial for four weeks in 2019 in the Steuben County Jail. She was given no warning when she was transferred to the men’s facility during that time, the NYCLU stated.

The organization added that during her time in the men’s facility, she was denied her prescribed medication. Faith also allegedly encountered sexual harassment and abuse during her time in the county jail.

New guidelines for the county under the settlement include housing individuals consistent with their gender identity. It also will ensure that all staff respect the gender identity of the inmates in all contexts, which include searches, as well as using their proper names and pronouns.

The county will also commit itself to ensuring access to clothing, toiletries and medical care consistent with the individual’s gender identity.

“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 NYCLU. “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.”

Faith expressed relief that “the harm” she experienced in the Steuben County Jail is recognized by the county. She added that she is glad the county is striving to ensure that other inmates do not encounter similar experiences in detention facilities.

“No one should ever be subjected to the cruelty and harassment I endured,” said Faith. “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,” she said.

Sheriff Allard said that he is proud of the corrections staff’s acknowledgement that following the NYS Minimum Standards of County Jails and Lockups can at times be insufficient. He added it is the responsibility of all involved in these circumstances to create new policies.

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