The Associated Press (this was big, national news) reports that Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia has enacted a new policy meant to protect LGBT prisoners and others incarcerated (such as those without bail who have not been convicted). The move comes amidst growing calls for the City of Houston to adopt more tolerant viewpoints and regulations towards the community.
The policy allows transgendered prisoners, including those pre-surgery, to be housed with their gender identity, not their birth, biological sex. The article also notes that the new “policy also covers intersex inmates,” though it does not explain how it goes about this. Additionally, the new policy will ensure that a zero-tolerance stance will be taken on sexual abuse (of anyone, including LGBT prisoners) by jail staff.
Transgendered prisoners, specifically those born male but identifying as women, are over 13 times more likely to be abused or assaulted in jail/prison. This issue was given big exposure a few months ago when the individual formerly known as Bradley Manning announced she was coming out as a transgendered woman named Chelsea.
While some cities, like Denver, Los Angeles and Washington, have similar policies, this is the first of its kind in Texas. Before Dallas, even before Austin. Since Houston has recently been dragging its feet vis-a-vis LGBT rights and a non-discrimination ordinance, this is good news for the community. Harris County is still a mostly red county, though to be fair, the Sheriff (who is a Democrat) has wide discretion over this issue.
Perhaps this is foreshadowing of something to come in Adrian Garcia’s political career.