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Transgender woman moved to women’s unit of DC jail

A transgender woman suing the D.C. Department of Corrections for keeping her in the men’s detention unit against her wishes as a transgender woman was moved to the women’s unit on Friday, a decision made minutes before a scheduled hearing in federal court.

Sunday Hinton has been in jail since April 26 and has made several requests to be moved to the women’s unit at the jail that were denied, according to the ACLU-D.C.

Attorneys for the government said that housing at the D.C. jail is based on anatomy, according to court filings.

Hinton’s lawyers said the jail offered Hinton the choice of protective custody but they said that would give her less freedom and would be similar to putting her in solitary confinement.

The court set a hearing for Friday morning and at 10 p.m. on May 13, the ACLU-D.C. said they were informed by lawyers at the Department of Corrections that they would provide Hinton with an internal hearing on Friday morning at 9:30 a.m., at which her lawyers could listen but not speak.

At the hearing, Hinton strongly reiterated her desire to be transferred to the women’s unit. The jail officials reversed themselves and decided to recommend that Ms. Hinton be transferred to a women’s unit.

Fifteen minutes before the hearing in federal court, the Department of Corrections notified the ACLU-D.C. that it would grant the transfer. Hinton was moved to a women’s unit later on Friday.

Government attorneys have argued that housing at the D.C. jail is based on anatomy, according to court filings.

Lawyers at the ACLU-D.C. said the case now proceeds and they are seeking class certification to represent all other trans individuals in Department of Corrections custody facing the same issue.

“We’re afraid Ms. Hinton is just the tip of the iceberg,” said Scott Michelman of the ACLU-D.C.

Michelman said the ACLU-D.C. and the Public Defender Service are aware of at least one other individual who was unaware of the Transgender Housing Committee’s existence and the possibility that they could request to be housed according to their gender identity rather than their sex assigned at birth.

“I treat seriously that there are other individuals who might be housed not in accordance with their gender identity and were never given an opportunity to be heard by the [Transgender Housing Committee] to decide that issue,” said Judge Bates, who presided over the case.

Valerie Bonk

Valerie Bonk started working at WTOP in 2016 and has lived in Howard County, Maryland, her entire life. She's thrilled to be a reporter for WTOP telling stories on air. She works as both a television and radio reporter in the Maryland and D.C. areas. 

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