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Records that identify transgender inmates must remain sealed

May 19, 2021 GMT

SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) — Records that could potentially identify dozens of transgender inmates in state prisons must remain sealed for now, a federal judge in Spokane has ruled.

The Spokesman-Review reported that U.S. District Court Judge Thomas O. Rice on Monday granted a preliminary order sought by five unnamed transgender inmates, represented by Disability Rights Washington and the American Civil Liberties Union.

The order prohibits the Washington Department of Corrections from releasing records sought by the Tacoma News Tribune, KIRO Radio and several other requesters regarding any complaints made against transgender inmates at the Washington Corrections Center for Women in Gig Harbor following an anonymous report of sexual violence there earlier this spring.

Releasing the records would violate the inmates’ rights under the federal and Washington constitutions to be protected from potential harm both inside the prisons and once released, Rice ruled.

Disability Rights Washington is a nonprofit that is working with the Washington Department of Corrections under an agreement in lieu of litigation, and the ACLU. The lawsuit names the Department of Corrections, but not the news outlets that sought the records’ release.

The news outlets have argued that the case should be dismissed, or heard in a state courtroom because the laws concerning release of public records are written in state statute. Rice has yet to rule on those motions.