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Cook County Jail to Separate Inmates By Gender Identity

By Chuck Sudo in News on Apr 11, 2011 2:11PM

Photo by Slow911
Last month, Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart implemented a comprehensive policy to separate inmates at Cook County Jail by gender identity, rather than birth sex. It's believed the policy is the first of its kind in the country.

Prior to this policy, transgendered inmates at 26th and California were at risk for physical assault and harrassment because of the their gender identity. Dart's office worked with LGBT advocates, the Department of Corrections and Cermak Health Services to draft the policy, in which transgendered inmates are referred to a "Gender Identity Panel" of therapists and physicians before being placed into male or female wings of the jail. The policy also allows for transgendered inmates to carry toiletries and wear clothes consistent with their gender identity.

A recent report from the Gay and Lesbian Task Force showed that 35 percent of transgendered prisoners had to deal with harassment from fellow inmates, and 37 percent were harassed by correctional officers. Cermak Health Services chief medical officer Dr. Avery Hart told Windy City Times that two to three transgendered inmates are incarcerated at Cook County Jail at any given moment and that the policy should work to ensure the mental health of those inmates and reduce the chances of harassment.