The D.C. Department of Corrections (DOC) has amended its policy to permit transgender female inmates to shave, even when other inmates may not be permitted to use razors themselves, according to a memo issued by Thomas Faust, director of DOC.
The ruling comes after an inmate was injured in a suicide attempt with a razor at the D.C. Jail, according to transgender activist Jeri Hughes. As a result, Faust stated that the jail did not have a system in place to control the use of disposable razors and suspended shaving privileges for all inmates, including transgender females, until a system could be put in place.
''Not being able to shave can be pretty traumatic for some of these girls,'' Hughes said.
Last month, the Transgender Advisory Committee, a board that provides guidance to DOC to ensure it is compliant with the District's Human Rights Act as it pertains to equal treatment of transgender inmates, raised the issue to Faust. Hughes said Faust told the advisory committee he would resolve it within two weeks. He implemented a change in the policy within a week, which took effect Nov. 4. He then followed up on that policy change by signing a memo Nov. 7 to make the changes a matter of record.
According to the memo, once a transgender inmate is identified, a case manager will interview the inmate to ask if she is interested in receiving shaving services. The case manager will keep a record of the inmate's decision, and if the inmate accepts, she will sign a consent form.
To take advantage of the shaving services, which are offered on Monday and Friday of every week, the transgender inmates who agree will be taken to the female receiving and discharge area, where they will be allowed to shave. Administrators will also check to see that the services are being received and that each inmate has signed the appropriate consent form. Transgender inmates will also be given the opportunity to purchase Magic Shave, a shaving cream that dissolves facial hair. These services will be available to transgender inmates, even if the rest of the jail's population is not permitted to access shaving services.
According to Hughes, the ability to shave is very important to transgender inmates, many of whom choose to be housed with the male population instead of the female population. Hughes says some female transgender inmates have felt uncomfortable or unsafe when housed with other female inmates.
''DOC is trying very hard to comply with the DC Human Rights Act,'' Hughes said. ''Director Faust has been trying very hard. He gave me a date when this policy would be implemented, and he followed through with it more than a week early.''
[EDITOR'S NOTE: As originally reported, this story incorrectly reported that the change in protocol stemmed from an altercation between inmates rather than a suicide atttempt.]