A California prison psychologist who claims she was locked up in a cell with a convicted rapist as punishment for defending transgender inmates has accepted a $275,000 settlement.
Lois Jespersen, who the Sacramento Bee says worked for the California Department of Corrections since 2008, left her post as part of the agreement. The settlement forbids her from working at any other state prisons, either in the immediate or distant future.
Her suit centers on work performed at the California Medical Facility in Vacaville, CA.
Jespersen, writes the Bee, is a ‘married lesbian.’ At Vacaville, she noticed coworkers openly disparaging transgender inmates, mocking the gender-identifying pronouns that many use.
The alleged ridicule took on crueler and more personal forms, too. Jespersen’s suit says that, in one instance, prison staff ‘outed’ a transgender inmate on social media.
She also claims it was common practice for transgender inmates to be stripped in public. Such exhibitions would lack any sort of privacy screen for the inmate and were occasionally accompanied by rude comments from staff.
Perhaps on account of her advocacy, Jespersen says she was twice locked in confined areas with ‘dangerous’ inmates.’ She claims she was left “unsupervised, alone and without access to a safety alarm” after filing reports on behalf of transgender inmates.
In one case, the inmate she was allegedly confined with was serving “multiple life sentences” for rape.
Jespersen’s attorney, Felicia Medina, said the harassment made working at Vacaville unbearable. Along with having to endure derogatory remarks against LGBT persons, Jespersen was allegedly placed in a position in which she couldn’t interact with patients.
Nevertheless, Medina says her client’s happy with the outcome, in large part because it puts a spotlight on the plight of transgender prisoners.
“She’s happy in the sense that her complaints were not going to be in vain, that her advocacy for herself and her community were not going to be wasted,” Medina said. “She wanted CDCR to be aware that there are people who are going to come forward.”
The settlement comes about a year after a transgender prison guard sued the California Department of Corrections and Rehabiltiation for discrimination.
In that case, guard Meghan Frederick said she’d come to ‘feel the harassment she feared would come’ after revealing her transition. The Bee says Frederick had spent a decade as “an athletic man who’d left a career in finance” to join the CDCR.
One of Frederick’s long-time colleagues allegedly said that, “back in the day we would never have let someone like (Frederick) work in the prison, we would have run them out of here.”
Frederick claims to have been similarly harassed for over five years. Along with being subjected to insults, Frederick says her car was vandalized and that other members of staff didn’t report death threats an inmate had made against her.
Frederick filed her lawsuit in 2017—it remains unresolved.