A transgender woman in New York has agreed to a landmark settlement that could lead to widespread change in the treatment of incarcerated LGBTQ people at Broome County correctional facilities.
Makyyla Holland, a 25-year-old transgender woman, accused Broome County Jail correctional officers of abuse and discrimination while she was in their custody for six weeks.
As a result of the $140,000 settlement filed on Thursday, Broome County will commit to implementing LGBTI Guidelines for Safe Confinement.
Holland's complaint argued that she was beaten, placed in a men’s housing unit, and denied access to health care. Holland also alleged that she was “routinely harassed and misgendered” and that correctional staff “ignored her repeated pleas for help and for protection from the threats and sexual victimization to which they had exposed her.”
“I was harassed, mocked, misgendered and worse: jail staff strip-searched me, beat me up, placed me in the male section of the jail and withheld my hormones for a period of time, forcing me to go into agonizing withdrawal,” said Holland in a statement via the New York Civil Liberties Union.
Holland was arrested on criminal contempt and assault charges, according to the Binghamton Police Department's Facebook page. She pleaded guilty to contempt of court and she was sentenced to time served. The criminal case against her has ended, according to the Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund.
The Binghamton Police Department did not confirm further details.
The new LGBTQ guidelines enforce zero tolerance anti-discrimination and anti-harassment policies, as well as procedures in place to protect the privacy and safety of LGBTQ people around other incarcerated people. The policies, the guidelines state, are aimed at correcting practices that led to Holland's alleged mistreatment.
"I’m pleased we were able to amicably reach a resolution that establishes clear LGBTI Guidelines, which were previously nonexistent, to address the rights of LGBTI inmates while maintaining the safety and security of individuals both housed and working at the Broome County Correctional Facility," said Broome County Sheriff Fred Akshar.
He continued, "It’s another important step forward in pragmatically and safely modernizing policies to meet the needs of those we serve and protect as we work to build a better, safer community for everyone in Broome County.”
Incarcerated gender-nonconforming people are disproportionately subject to violence and discrimination while in U.S. correctional facilities compared to their non-LGBTQ counterparts, according to the Transgender Law Center. This is especially true for people of color, like Holland, according to the center's research.
For example, the Bureau of Justice Statistics found that transgender people in custody are sexually assaulted at a rate 10 times that of the general population in correctional facilities.
“This policy and policies like it can impact a lot of my community, and I will continue to fight to ensure that no other trans person in New York or anywhere has to endure what I did," said Holland in a statement.