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Philadelphia Sheriff's Office Launches New Transgender Policy For Inmates

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- The Philadelphia Sheriff's Office is launching a new policy for the transport, search and housing of transgender individuals.

The new directive provides rules for the Philadelphia Sheriff Department's interaction with individuals in custody who are transgender.

"There have been incidents on the buses and in the cell rooms where people who are not LGBT friendly create fights or arguments and sometimes it can get really out of control," says Sheriff Jewell Williams.

He says the department is implementing the policy to ensure the safety of inmates and deputies.

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 "What we want to do is make sure everybody's rights are protected," he says. "This is the right time to do this."

According to the policy, inmates will be processed based on the gender listed on government-issued ID. However, individuals who identify as transgender may fill out a "Transgender/Gender-Variant Statement of Search" form to alert the department of their gender identity or expression, preferred name and their preference for the gender of the officer who will search them.

The information will be kept private and will determine how officers refer to the transgender inmate, including what pronouns are used, while in custody.

"That's the way that we will address the person," says Williams.

He says under the new policy transgender males will be transported with cisgender men and transgender females with cisgender women.

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When possible, all transgender inmates will be housed individually.

"This brings the LGBT community more closer to law enforcement and deals with the concerns regarding people's rights being violated," says Williams. "We want to make sure that people are being treated fair once they come into the lock up-- an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure."

The new policy impacts pre and post-operative transgender individuals and will go into effect Friday, but training has already begun.

Jewell says LGBT liaison Dante Austin will be conducting the training and new installations of deputies. Jewell says his office deals with dozens of transgender inmates each year.

CLICK HERE to read the new transgender policy.

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