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Transgender Woman Booked Into Male Section Of Jail During Protest

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — A transgender woman claims the Sacramento County Jail discriminated against her by booking her into the male section of the jail.

The woman was one of two people arrested during a Stephon Clark protest in front of the district attorney's office on Thursday.

The woman's arrest drew attention from city and county officials, who say they stepped in to help move the woman into another part of the jail.

Ebony Ava Harper was arrested and booked into the Sacramento County Jail on charges of failing to disperse during a protest, and resisting an officer.

Harper, who identifies as a transgender woman, says her experience Thursday was humiliating, and a nightmare.

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

Harper says she was then booked with the male population, where she says she feared for her safety.

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

But Harper wasn't locked up in the male section for long. City and county officials stepped in to help.

"It could have been borderline dangerous," said Sacramento County Supervisor Phil Serna.

Serna says he learned about the incident from the mayor's office and says he immediately contacted Sheriff Scott Jones. Serna says the sheriff had Harper transferred to the female section.

The incident now has Serna questioning the jail's booking policy.

"If there's any kind of confusion as to how that happens, I think we need to make sure there is no confusion," Serna added.

CBS13 asked the Sacramento County Sheriff's Department about its current policy for housing a transgender inmate in the Sacramento County Jail.

A spokesman for the department says transgender inmates are always booked separately.

The spokesman also said "...Ms. Harper was placed in a holding cell by herself in the booking area of the jail...the cell was located on the male side."

Harper was released a few hours after her arrest.

A voice for Sacramento's transgender community, with a renewed will to seek transgender equality behind bars.

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

CBS13 also reached out other jails in the region about transgender booking policies.

In Yolo County, transgender inmates could be housed separately for safety reasons, or assigned depending on their physical attributes.

Placer County is adopting a new policy, but currently follows Attorney General Xavier Becerra's recommendation to house transgender inmates on which gender they identify with.

New York City announced Tuesday, transgender inmates will now be able to choose where they're housed. San Francisco also has the same policy.

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