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During Pride Month Corrections Highlights LGBTQ+ Partnerships & Policies

June 22, 2022

By Rachel Ericson

Department of Corrections

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Washington State Department of Corrections recruited and participated at Pride events this month, because a diverse workforce is essential to best represent the community we serve. (DOC Staff)

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The Reason for Pride Month

Each year, the nation recognizes June as Pride Month in remembrance of the historic Stonewall Uprising that occurred in Manhattan on June 28, 1969. Though it was not the first time that LGBTQ+ people fought back against police raids of gay establishments, the event at the Stonewall Inn is credited as a “tipping point for the Gay Liberation Movement in the United States,” that “...fundamentally change[d] the discourse surrounding LGBTQ+ activism in the United States.” according to the Library of Congress. Pride month is a time for people to gather to celebrate with parades, festivals, and reflections (virtually and in-person). Pride month was created to foster a sense of community; to remember that while united by differences, people come together to support and uplift one another. Coming together as a community traditionally provides strength to LGBTQ+ people in times of adversity.

Resources for State Employees

State employees in Washington have access to many unique programs and initiatives designed to provide resources for LGBTQ+ people and their allies. These include information on inclusive pronoun usage, recommendations for gender-neutral forms, and information on organizations that support the LGBTQ+ community. These resources can be found at Rainbow Alliance and Inclusion Network (Rain)

Throughout the month, Corrections employees have been recruiting at and participating in Pride events, because a diverse workforce is essential to best represent the community we serve.

WADOC Leads by Example

Department of Corrections (DOC) places a strong emphasis on the importance of inclusion and representation by leading the nation with a policy that recognizes the unique challenges that non-binary and transgender incarcerated people face.

The policy, DOC 490.700 Transgender, Intersex, and/or Gender Non-binary Housing and Supervision, establishes procedures to ensure equitable treatment of transgender, intersex, and/or gender non-binary people during intake screening and determining housing, classification, programming and supervision. All people under DOC’s care and custody are assessed upon intake and, if they self-identify as transgender, intersex and/or gender non-binary, they continue the intake process using the guidance within this policy to determine how they can best be kept safe and be provided support.

“Often, people may think that those who are non-binary or transgender want to be moved to a facility that matches their gender, but this isn’t always the case,” explains Corrections’ Gender Responsive Administrator Jo Wofford. “They mostly want to feel heard and know that they’ll be safe.”

In fact, a common myth perpetuated about people who are transgender is that they will commit crimes of assault against vulnerable populations. This is not true.Prison Rape Elimination Act Statistics tells us that people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and/or transgender face a higher risk of sexual victimization in confinement. For instance, a study of California state prisons found that transgender women housed in a men’s facility were 13 times more likely to have been sexually abused by another incarcerated person than non-transgender incarcerated people.

DOC does not place people into female or male facilities simply because they have made their gender known. If a person identifies as transgender or non-binary, they participate in a thorough mental health review, healthcare assessment, and facility evaluation. Several multidisciplinary teams must review all requests with a last review from the Headquarters Multidisciplinary team for a final placement determination.

“A person’s right to safe and humane treatment does not change based on their gender identity,” says Corrections Secretary Cheryl Strange.

DOC is actively working with community outreach organizations to identify and address possible systemic issues, regarding housing, mental health and medical services for people who are transgender and remains committed to the health and safety of all people in its custody.