BINGHAMTON, N.Y. – (WIVT/WBGH) Following a lawsuit filed last year, the Broome County Sheriff’s Office has agreed to sweeping changes in how it handles transgender inmates in the jail.
Makyyla Holland is a transgender woman who says she suffered violence and threats to her safety during a six-week stint in the Broome County Jail in 2021 and 2022.
Holland says she was housed in the male section of the facility, subjected to frequent strip searches, and beatings by corrections officers and harassment from other inmates.
The lawsuit alleged that during her incarceration, the staff discriminated against Holland on the basis of her sex, transgender status and disability. Holland reached a settlement, and the county has committed to prevent discrimination and violence against transgender, intersex, lesbian, gay, and bisexual people in its custody by changing its policies to comply with federal and state law.
The lawsuit was filed with the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund and the New York Civil Liberties Union. Following the announcement of the settlement, the CLU made a testimonial video with Holland.
“So, when I first got into the Broome County Jail, I just felt I was being humiliated. I was a laughingstock there because I was being discriminated because of me being a trans woman. So that put me at a high risk of harassment, and I’m a woman and I was being housed with grown men,” said Holland.
Under the settlement, Broome County says in the jail, it will now house people consistent with their gender identity, conduct searches with the gender of officer that the inmate feels safest around, ensure that the staff respects a person’s identity, including name and pronoun use, ensure access to clothing, toiletry items and medication are free from discrimination and consistent with a person’s gender identity.
The director of LGBTQ Rights Litigation at the New York Civil Liberties Union, Bobby Hodgson says that Holland’s lawsuit sets the standard for counties across the region and the country.
“We’re really hopeful that jails in the region and around the state can start to see that its really important to have a policy in place and that the policy covers these very basic, but unfortunately, all to common ways in which transgender people are often treated unlawfully and in a way that threatens their safety,” said Hodgson.
Holland will be compensated with $160,000 and the policy should be in place now.
Broome County Sheriff Fred Akshar released a statement saying that although the settlement stems from an incident that occurred before he was elected sheriff, he is pleased that the parties were able to reach a resolution that establishes clear guidelines, which were previously nonexistent to address the rights of LGBTQ inmates.