CHICAGO (AP) – Transgender inmates at Cook County Jail can now be housed, dressed and searched according to their gender identity rather than their sex at birth, under a new policy.

Transgender inmates are being screened by a Gender Identity Committee within days of entering the jail.

The committee then decides where and how they should be housed, what clothes and toiletries they should have and what gender security officers can search them.

The new policy took effect March 21. Jail spokesman Steve Patterson says it’s been applied to six inmates since then.

Advocates say they hope the new rules will help protect inmates who are most vulnerable to sexual abuse.

Before, all inmates were automatically assigned to live among the gender they were born with, regardless of how they self-identified.

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