The semi-anonymous plaintiff says prison staff laughed when they heard the transgender woman’s newly-assigned cellmate threatening to harm her.
A transgender inmate has filed a lawsuit against the Michigan Department of Corrections, claiming she was forced to bunk with a convicted rapist—and was soon after sexually assaulted.
According to The Detroit News, the lawsuit was filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court.
In the complaint, the plaintiff claims she had a registered “medical detail prohibiting her housing with a non-gender dysphoric inmate” while incarcerated at the G. Robert Cotton Correctional Facility, located outside of Jackson, Michigan.
However, the plaintiff—identified in court documents only as “Jane Doe”—says that corrections staff ignored the medical orders, as well as her own requests. In January 2020, Doe was ordered to share a cell with “a known rapist and murderer imprisoned for life for killing a woman during sexual intercourse.”
Doe quickly protested the assignment—but a corrections officer threatened to write her a ticket for misconduct.
The same officer also purportedly went so far as to tell Doe that he or the Department of Corrections would place her in disciplinary segregation if she continued to complain.
“Plaintiff had no choice but to enter the cell as receiving misconduct tickets can have substantial adverse effects on a prisoner including loss of privileges, housing in solitary confinement, escalation of security level and negative effects on parole opportunities,” the lawsuit says.
Once Doe was moved into her new cell, the alleged assailant began to call out to prison staff, asserting that “they should not have this “faggot” in here with him and to “get her out.””
Shortly thereafter, Doe was removed from the cell—but only to complete paperwork confirming the transfer. While filling out the papers, Doe reiterated that she was afraid to be housed with a non-transgender inmate and that her new cellmate’s threats caused her to fear for her safety.
Nevertheless, corrections staff continued to threaten Doe with disciplinary segregation and other punitive consequences if she did not drop the matter and accept her assignment.
One officer allegedly overheard Doe’s cellmates continuing to scream threats, but simply laughed and walked on.
Later the same night, Doe claims she was raped with “forcible penetration.” She was able to summon help only after her attacker had fallen asleep.
Doe was then sent to a hospital for treatment. But as soon as she returned to the prison, her security level was boosted from Level II to Level IV, “even though the plaintiff had not engaged in any misconduct.”
Doe’s attorney, Nakisha Chaney, stressed to the press that correctional institutions have a constitutional duty to protect people like her client.
“The fact is — prisoners have a Constitutional right to be protected from sexual abuse. And it is not good enough that a guard or a staff member can just laugh off someone’s request for help. These are people’s lives that we’re talking about,” Chaney told The Detroit Free Press.
“Prison rape and sexual assault are still a very prevalent part of prison culture. And there are particular populations that are especially at risk — the young, the transgender,” Chaney said. “They are prey.”