Sunday Hinton, a transgender woman jailed in Washington, D.C., has been moved from a men’s to a women’s housing unit, her legal team confirmed Friday, resolving part of a federal lawsuit they filed.
Attorneys for Ms. Hinton said they will continue to seek relief for other transgender individuals currently incarcerated in D.C. Jail based on their anatomy instead of their gender identity, however.
“I am afraid that Ms. Hinton may be the tip of the iceberg here,” Scott Michelman, lead counsel for the plaintiff, said during a phone hearing before U.S. District Court Judge John Bates in D.C.
Lawyers for the American Civil Liberties Union of D.C. had brought the lawsuit days earlier on behalf of Ms. Hinton, a suspected burglar, after learning she was being jailed in a housing unit for men.
Currently, inmates in the custody of the D.C. Department of Correction are jailed by default in a men’s or women’s unit based on whether they have male or female genitals, respectively, the suit says.
Existing policy allows for inmates to go before the D.C. corrections department’s Transgender Housing Committee and request it recommend to the warden they are jailed by gender identity, not anatomy.
But the committee had not met in over a year when the suit was filed, according to lawyers for the plaintiff, affecting Ms. Hinton and an unknown number of other transgender individuals in D.C. Jail.
In addition to asking for Ms. Hinton to be moved to a women’s housing unit, her lawyers asked the court to suspend the city’s existing policy for transgender inmates and reactivate the committee.
The lawyers also requested their case be certified as a class-action lawsuit in order to cover other inmates jailed in D.C. wanting to be housed by their gender identity both now and in the future.
Appearing in court on behalf of the attorney general for D.C., Andrew J. Saindon said the Transgender Housing Committee met with Ms. Hinton earlier Friday and agreed to move her to a women’s unit.
“The committee recommended and the warden approved her request to be moved to a women’s unit not in protective custody,” Mr. Saindon said.
The ACLU of D.C. later confirmed Ms. Hinton was moved to a women’s housing unit and shared audio of a phone call in which she described herself as “happy” and “delighted” by the developments.
Mr. Michaelman said Ms. Hinton‘s lawyers are “very pleased” by the transfer, but he added they remain concerned about other transgender individuals in the department’s custody jailed based on anatomy.
Previously, lawyers for Ms. Hinton said they believe as many as 60 transgender individuals are housed in D.C. Jail, “with the vast majority, if not all of them, housed by anatomy instead of gender.”
Mr. Michaelman said that “there are many people who, like Ms. Hinton, are being housed inconsistent with their gender identity, thus denying an important aspect of their personhood and also potentially putting them at risk of sexual assault.”
Judge Bates, an appointee of former President George W. Bush, asked lawyers on each side of the case to discuss moving forward and set another hearing in the matter for next Tuesday at noon.