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Transgender County Jail inmate on hunger strike protesting housing rules

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Athena Cadence is on a hunger strike against County Jail’s policy on housing transgender inmates. (Photo courtesy Facebook)

A transgender woman inmate in San Francisco County Jail has reportedly not eaten for 16 days in protest for being housed with other transgender inmates instead of in the women’s jail.

Athena Cadence is currently in County Jail 2 — behind the Hall of Justice — in a segregated section of the jail that only houses three current transgender inmates. The larger jail unit is for intake and has women and men inside it.

Up until early April, all transgender inmates — about eight at the time — were housed in County Jail 4, which is on the seventh floor of the Hall of Justice and houses the male population. The inmates were moved out of County Jail 4 as an interim solution so that they no longer had to walk past male inmates who “subjected [them] to taunts,” said Eileen Hirst, chief of staff with the Sheriff’s Department, which oversees the jail.

While the Sheriff’s Department did not comment on the case due to medical privacy laws, Hirst said the protocol in general includes monitoring all inmates.

The City’s jail system will soon be in compliance with the Prison Rape Elimination Act, which calls for all transgender inmates to be housed with their gender preference, Hirst said.

“We are committed to doing it. We want to be compliant,” Hirst said.

In the meantime, the department has trained about 57 deputies in transgender awareness and it plans to have the whole department trained by the end of next fiscal year, Hirst said. A new policy on transgender inmates will be implemented in the next few weeks and will include classification, intake and programs.

But the department’s movement toward that goal has been too slow for one of the transgender organizations that has been working with the Sheriff’s Department on the issue since January.

In fact, the Transgender Gender-Variant Intersection Justice Project has released a list of demands because of the “repeated failures to provide safety for imprisoned” transgender inmates.

“Six months into her time in office, Sheriff Vicki Hennessy has repeatedly missed deadlines set by the city and community leaders to implement a policy that respects the safety and gender self-determination of TGI folks held behind bars,” the project’s webpage reads.

Those demands include the release of all transgender inmates on their own recognizance until there is the creation of a policy “instead of our people continuing to be kept in dangerous conditions.” They also demand the transfer of Cadence to the women’s housing unit.

Former Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi planned to put in motion a housing plan that would place transgender inmates with the population they identified, but that was never put into place, according to the current administration.

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  • granddad1

    Put them in with the gender to which they ID. Bubba gonna like that.