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Transgender woman sues DC jail after spending more than 2 weeks in men's unit

Sunday Hinton says the jail has refused to move her to the women's unit — endangering her safety and violating her rights.

WASHINGTON — A transgender woman incarcerated for more than two weeks in the men's unit of the D.C. jail is suing the city in federal court, demanding she be moved to the women's unit.

The ACLU said Sunday Hinton been held in the D.C. jail since April 26. She's charged with unarmed burglary with the intent to steal $20 dollars. And she's being held in the men's unit — even though Sunday Hinton is a transgender woman.

"Very angry," her lawyer, Megan Yan told WUSA9. "This policy discriminates against transgender individuals, it houses them inconsistently with their gender identity and it denies a fundamental aspect of their personhood."

The ACLU and the D.C. Public Defender Service are both representing Hinton, alleging that by incarcerating people based on their anatomy instead of their identity, the city is violating the D.C. Human Rights Act and the U.S. Constitution.

In an email to WUSA9, spokeswoman Keena Blackmon wrote: 

"The DC Department of Corrections is dedicated to the safety and security of all residents in its care and custody. DOC is committed to following its policies and procedures relating to housing transgender residents. Ms. Hinton recently arrived in DOC custody and, per the agency’s COVID-19 protocols, was placed into single-occupancy quarantine for 14 days. Once that quarantine ends, Ms. Hinton will go before the Transgender Housing Committee to determine her housing based on safety needs, housing availability, and gender identity. DC DOC is sensitive to Ms. Hinton’s concerns and will continue to ensure that its residents’ needs are met."

The two-week quarantine should have lapsed Monday.

Hinton's lawyers said she — along with the other transgender women at the jail — are at much greater risk of sexual assault in the men's unit. 

"But all that aside for Miss Hinton, it's really just about being respected and treated as a woman, which she is," Yan said.

The complaint in federal court asks for transgender prisoners to be treated as a class and it requests emergency relief. The ACLU said the Transgender Housing Committee at the jail has not met in over a year.

"The solution is simple: move Ms. Hinton to the women's unit, immediately," Yan said.

The ACLU said the jail has offered to move Hinton to protective custody, but that, they say, is simply the psychological trauma of solitary confinement by another name.

An NBC News investigation last year found nearly 5,000 transgender inmates in state prisons, and only 15, including three in D.C., housed in units based on their identity rather than their sex at birth.

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