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Sacramento jail scrutinized for booking transgender woman on male side: 'My humanity was stripped

Crime
Ebony Ava Harper, a transgender woman, was booked into the male section of Sacramento County Jail after being arrested at a protest. A spokesman said that even though Harper was booked on the male side of the jail, she was placed alone in a holding cell separate from others.(Image source: KOVR-TV video screenshot)

Sacramento County Jail policies are under scrutiny after a transgender woman was briefly booked in the male section of the jail after being arrested during a protest of the shooting death of Stephon Clark, KOVR-TV reported.

The woman, Ebony Harper, was protesting with others in front of the Sacramento district attorney's office Thursday. She was one of two people arrested, booked on charges of failing to disperse during a protest and resisting an officer.

What's the story?

Harper was born a man and said she identifies as a woman. When she was arrested, she said the way she was searched and where she was held was uncomfortable and caused her to fear for her safety.

"My humanity was stripped," Harper told KOVR. "I was searched by men, and they videotaped me, I began to cry because I didn't feel comfortable being searched by a guy.

"I have some female body parts; I just felt dehumanized."

Harper criticized the "hostile" society of oppression against transgender people.

"We live in a hostile society. It's hostile to our existence," Harper said. "The way law enforcement handles us, it's just one more notch on the belt of oppression."

What's the policy?

A spokesman for the Sacramento County Sheriff's Department said the policy is for transgender inmates to be booked separately from the general population.

He also said that even though Harper was booked on the male side of the jail, she was placed alone in a holding cell separate from others.

"It could have been borderline dangerous," Sacramento County Supervisor Phil Serna said. "If there's any kind of confusion as to how that happens, I think we need to make sure there is no confusion."

In New York City and San Francisco, among other places, transgender inmates have the option to be housed with whichever gender they identify with.

"Respecting someone's gender identity or gender expression is key in making sure that everyone in New York City is living with dignity and respect," New York City Commissioner of Human Rights Carmelyn Malalis told The Associated Press. "The fact that somebody's incarcerated or not doesn't really change that."

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