HRC Blog

Harris County Announces Trans-Inclusive Housing Policy in its Jails

This post comes from Lou Weaver, Diversity Co-Chair of the HRC Houston Steering Committee

Last week, the Harris County Sheriff’s Office announced two new policies that would positively impact its LGBT employees and the transgender people in their jail system. The sheriff’s office added sexual orientation and gender identity in the non-discrimination clause of its employment policy, and incorporated language in its jail housing policy that respects the gender identity and needs of transgender prisoners.

Harris County is the first county in Texas to enact such important changes, and it is one of the most comprehensive in the country.

I am proud of my role in the collaboration with the sheriff’s office and other members of the county, and for bringing together local and national resources to support these efforts, particularly, on the national level, the Human Rights Campaign and the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE).

Sheriff Garcia has long been a proponent for the Houston LGBT community, seeking the endorsement of the GLBT Political Caucus and speaking at local events. So it wasn’t a surprise that Sheriff Garcia responded quickly when contacted about a transgender man facing harassment by jail staff.

The Sheriff assembled a team to create a policy – and they sought feedback from transgender community members including myself. As we went line-by-line through the policy, I was comfortable discussing language and options with them, but when it came to legal wording, I turned to NCTE and HRC, who provided incredible expertise.

The new policy outlines a “no-tolerance” approach regarding discrimination against transgender people by housing them according to their gender identity,and for access to the appropriate medical care.

Now that this new policy is complete, we are creating Standard Operating Procedures to outline implementation and training. I am proud to have been involved in the creation of this policy since its early stages, and of the collaboration with the sheriff’s office, the local community, NCTE, and HRC. I encourage other agencies look to this policy and our collaborative approach for creating safer environments for LGBT people in their care. 

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