McKibben v. McMahon was a federal class action lawsuit against San Bernardino County over discriminatory policies at the West Valley Detention Center that harmed gay, bisexual and transgender incarcerated people. The suit was filed by the ACLU Foundation of Southern California (ACLU SoCal) and the law firm of Kaye, McLane, Bednarski & Litt, LLP. It charged the county’s policies were unconstitutional and violated the 14th Amendment’s guarantee of equal protection to all individuals.

As of 2014, individuals held in the jail’s general population area had access to, among other things, work and rehabilitative programs that allowed them to earn time credits and reduce their sentences. Individuals who were gay, bisexual, and transgender were housed in an “alternative lifestyle tank,” where they were denied access to those same programs. As a result, individuals who were gay, bisexual, or transgender were forced to serve longer sentences than other people convicted of the exact same offense, and did not have access to supports like drug treatment and vocational training that could ease their re-entry to the community.

The parties reached a settlement in this lawsuit which included policy changes and training, monetary damages for the plaintiff class, and attorney’s fees. The San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department committed to changing the name of its protective housing modules to the “Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Intersex (‘GBTI’) Unit,” allowing eligible individuals to give informed consent to housing either in that unit or in general population, ensuring access to programming and work opportunities and out-of-cell time for people housed in the GBTI unit, and creating an interdisciplinary GBTI-PREA Committee to address individual and systemic safety concerns.

Case Developments

July 30, 2019
 Court approves settlement.

October 29, 2018
We are looking for people who were housed in the Alternative Lifestyle Tank of the West Valley Detention Center (a San Bernardino County jail) between October 22, 2012 and March 31, 2018. If this was your experience, please visit for more information on how you can receive a portion of the settlement money.

August 15, 2018
A proposed settlement has been reached between the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department and plaintiffs, represented by ACLU SoCal and Kaye, McLane, Bednarski & Litt, LLP. It commits the County to expand housing options for incarcerated gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex people; to lift restrictions on participation in work, educational, religious, and community re-entry programs; to enforce a no-tolerance policy for harassment; and to improve access to medical treatment. The parties are awaiting court approval of the settlement. Read the settlement agreement.

May 20, 2015
Plaintiffs bring this action as a class action and seek injunctive relief and damages under both state and federal law. Read the second amended complaint.

October 22, 2014
ACLU SoCal and co-counsel Kaye, McLane, Bednarski & Litt, LLP sued San Bernardino County Sheriff John McMahon and the county over discriminatory policies at the West Valley Detention Center that deny gay, bisexual and transgender inmates equal access to work, recreation and rehabilitative programs solely based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. Read the complaint.


Amanda Goad, ACLU SoCal; Melissa Goodman, ACLU SoCal; Brendan Hamme, ACLU SoCal; Peter Eliasberg, ACLU SoCal; Barrett S. Litt, Kaye, McLane, Bednarski & Litt, LLP; David S. McLane, Kaye, McLane, Bednarski & Litt, LLP

Date filed

October 21, 2014


United States District Court for the Central District of California



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