The sheriff of Houston’s Harris County has adopted a sweeping policy designed to protect and guarantee equal treatment of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender inmates, including allowing transgender individuals to be housed based on the gender they identify with instead of their biological sex. Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia’s office believes the new policy is one of the most comprehensive in the country. It states that “discrimination or harassment of any kind based on sexual orientation or gender identity is strictly prohibited,” and outlines how such inmates will be searched, booked and housed, according to a copy of the policy obtained by The Associated Press. The policy also covers intersex inmates, defined as people born with sex chromosomes or reproductive systems that are not considered standard.
Harris County is the first in Texas to adopt this extensive of a policy, according to Brandon Wood, executive director of the Texas Commission on Jail Standards. The state agency inspects, regulates and provides technical assistance to county jails. The 11-page policy, along with a separate three-page document protecting this population from workplace discrimination, went into effect November 13, 2013 and was the culmination of a thorough review that began in July 2012.