Colorado Trans woman Sues After Being Raped In Men's Prison

A transgender inmate who was raped at a men’s prison in Colorado is suing over her ordeal.

Lindsay Saunders-Velez, 20, has filed a lawsuit against Colorado’s corrections agency, reports TIME, alleging that she was raped shortly 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, Paula Greisen. 

She entered the prison system in May 2017 after she was sentenced to three years for violating the terms of a plea agreement on a felony menacing charge.

Saunders-Velez filed a lawsuit in July 2017, saying she’s been threatened, harassed and assaulted since entering the prison system. She called Colorado prisons “discriminatory and dangerous” for transgender offenders.

According to court records, Saunders-Velez reported an inmate sexually assaulted her during a short transfer to another Colorado prison in December 2017. In order “to escape,” she swallowed razors and was sent to hospital, said her lawyers.

In April this year, her lawyers asked a judge not to send her to the Territorial Correctional Facility’s ‘punishment pod’ – a disciplinary unit – stating that she could end up with inmates who had threatened and tormented her.

They asked that she be moved back to her previous cell. Their request was rejected. She was put in the pod for allegedly kissing a male inmate, though Saunders-Velez denies the claim.

Her attorney Paula Greisen says Saunders-Velez was attacked in the punishment pod and then spent more than a week in the infirmary.

According to medical records provided to the Associated Press, Saunders-Velez had rectal and other injuries, while a nurse who examined her noted the unnamed inmate accused in the assault might be HIV-positive and use intravenous drugs.

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

In March, an emergency court order was filed to help a trans woman who is being kept in solitary confinement in a man’s prison for 24 hours a day.

Strawberry, who had been in solitary confinement for nine months at the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) guards, was only let out of her cell to shower, reports the Uptown People’s Law Center.

The prisoner alleges that she has survived numerous sexual assaults and received constant harassment and threats during her time inside.

“As a woman in a man’s prison, Strawberry fights for her survival every day. Instead of protecting her and housing her in a woman’s prison where she can be kept safe, IDOC officials have housed her with men, thrown her in segregation, and refused to provide her with the mental health care she needs,” said Vanessa del Valle, counsel for Ms Hampton with MacArthur Justice Center.