A trans woman who experienced violence, discrimination and was denied medication while in custody has won a huge settlement and triggered policy reform for trans inmates.
Makyyla Holland, 25, filed a lawsuit in 2022 against Broome County, New York after she was the victim of physical abuse, misgendering and was refused her antidepressants and hormone therapy during a six-week jail stint in 2021.
Holland said corrections officers discriminated against her based on the fact she is trans, subjected her to illegal strip searches, beat her and housed her with men, whilst she also faced abuse from fellow inmates.
As part of the settlement, Holland will receive $160,000 for the harm she endured at the Broome County Jail and the county will also adopt new policies affirming the rights of trans people who are held in custody.
“No one should ever have to go through what I went through at the Broome County Jail and I am so grateful that with this new policy, hopefully, no one else ever will,” Holland said in a written statement on the Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund (TLDEF) website.
“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.”
The new policy commitments will see the Broome County Jail ensure people’s names and pronouns are respected and trans inmates will be housed in units consistent with their gender. Additionally, trans people in the jail will have access to clothing and toiletry items consistent with their gender and be provided medical care free from discrimination.
Broome County sheriff Fred Akshar, who was elected after Holland’s detention, said he is “pleased” both parties were able to “amicably reach a resolution” establishes LGBTQ+ guidelines for staff.
“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,” Akshar said in a statement to USA Today.
Broome County Jail will implement trans policies following Makyyla Holland’s treatment. (Google Maps)
Commenting on the case, Shayna Medley, senior litigation staff attorney at the Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund, said: “No one should be subjected to violence, illegally strip searched, denied necessary medical care, or forced into unsafe housing conditions while in jail, and we are pleased that Broome County has agreed to implement policies that will better protect transgender people’s safety while in custody.
“At a time when trans people are increasingly under attack across the country, it is even more important for states and local governments to affirmatively protect trans people in custody.
“From this policy in Broome County to similar policies we’ve achieved in other settlements in recent years, TLDEF remains committed to fighting for the rights of transgender people interacting with the carceral system.”
In a written statement, Bobby Hodgson, director of LGBTQ Rights Litigation at the New York Civil Liberties Union, said there is “widespread” “mistreatment and abuse of transgender women in jails and prisons” across New York State.
Hodgson continued: “Today’s settlement establishes a new policy standard to prevent future incidents of abuse and discrimination in our state and around the country.
“Thanks to Ms Holland’s courage and persistence, jails and prisons are on notice that they have an obligation to treat transgender people with dignity.
“In the face of nationwide attacks targeting transgender communities, we will continue fighting for the safety, health and well-being of transgender people across New York State.”