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Transgender inmate says she was raped despite raising fears

Friday, May 4, 2018

Associated Press


A transgender inmate who is suing Colorado’s corrections agency says she was raped at a men’s prison hours after a federal judge denied her request to block the prison from keeping her in a disciplinary unit, according to court records and the woman’s attorney.

Lindsay Saunders-Velez filed a lawsuit in July saying she has been threatened, harassed and assaulted since entering Colorado’s prison system last spring for violating her plea deal in a menacing case. She called the state’s prisons “discriminatory and dangerous” for transgender offenders.

Last month, her lawyers asked a judge not to send Saunders-Velez to the Territorial Correctional Facility’s “punishment pod” for a disciplinary infraction, saying she could end up with inmates who had tormented her. The judge said the attorneys failed to prove an imminent risk and rejected their request.

Saunders-Velez, 20, was attacked in the pod and spent more than a week in the infirmary before being moved back to a housing area of the Canon City prison this week, her attorney, Paula Greisen, said.

Her case illustrates the threats and abuse transgender people face in prisons around the U.S., Greisen said.

“This issue is not going to go away,” she said. “We’re going to fight it until these individuals are treated with the respect they deserve.”

Federal law requires prison officials to individually assess where to house each transgender person, but almost all correctional facilities still house transgender inmates based on genitalia or the gender assigned at birth, said Demoya Gordon, an attorney with Lambda Legal’s Transgender Rights Project.

As a result, most transgender women are housed among men, and they often are harassed, abused or raped, Gordon said.