Claire Mercer is a transgender woman who was sentenced to serve time in the Mason County Jail in March 2019. When jail officials learned she was transgender, they immediately placed her in solitary confinement, not because there had been threats to her safety, but because the jail had never dealt with a transgender inmate before. Solitary confinement meant that Ms. Mercer was confined to a cell 23 hours per day and denied opportunities that other inmates had, like programming, exercise, and spending some time outdoors. The jail also refused to provide her medically prescribed hormone medication.

In July 2019 the ACLU of Michigan sent a letter to the county sheriff, complaining that Ms. Mercer’s treatment violated the Eighth Amendment and equal protection. After receiving our letter, the jail agreed to provide Ms. Mercer with her hormone medication and allowed her to participate in some program activities with the general jail population and to receive mental health counseling. In August 2019 we asked the Michigan Department of Civil Rights to conduct a formal investigation.

(ACLU Attorney Jay Kaplan).