Trans inmate forced to share a cell with a convicted rapist and murderer. He raped her that same night, court told
A trans inmate is taking legal action against the Michigan Department of Correction after she was allegedly thrown into a cell with a male rapist who sexually assaulted her less than a day later.
In a lawsuit filed to the US District Court Tuesday (2 March), seen by The Detroit News, corrections staff are accused of ignoring the trans inmate’s pleas for help, accusing her of lying and mocking her claims.
The prisoner, identified in the lawsuit only as Jane Doe, says she was forced to share a room at the G Robert Cotton Correctional Facility in Jackson with “a known rapist and murderer imprisoned for life for killing a woman during sexual intercourse”.
She was raped hours later, the lawsuit stated.
According to the report, the victim had a medical order that should have prohibited her from being housed with a cisgender inmate.
Nevertheless, officials reportedly ignored it – and the facility’s own policy directives to protect trans prisoners – when she was housed in January 2020.
Corrections staff “acted with deliberate indifference by knowingly and recklessly disregarding the excessive risk to plaintiff’s health and safety”, the suit said.
It adds that when she protested being put in a cell with the rapist, who she said was hostile towards her, corrections officers threatened to write her a misconduct ticket and place her in disciplinary segregation. One staffer laughed, the suit added.
She stressed to several staffers that the prisoner was “intimating that he was going to harm” her and “that it would be better for her to go to the hole”, referring to solitary confinement.
Hours later, she was raped by the man “with forcible penetration”, the suit said. “That night, plaintiff awoke to her cellmate sexually assaulting her.”
Only after he fell asleep did the victim seek help and medical treatment. Yet she found two prison officers watching movies on a computer and another half-asleep.
One deputy warden reportedly accused her of lying about the incident.
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Moreover, even though single-person cells were available, staffers still reportedly refused to move her to protective custody – she was returned to the same cell she was allegedly raped in.
The prisoner was re-located days later, “assigned to a cell with another cellmate who self-identified as a rapist and was incarcerated for first-degree criminal sexual conduct.”
“Shortly thereafter plaintiff transferred from the facility,” her lawyers wrote. “Plaintiff, having suffered rape and sexual assault, became depressed and suicidal.”
To the victim’s attorney, Nakisha Chaney, the saga signals the depth of indifference towards trans inmates and the sexual assault they face in a penal system that sees them treated like “prey”.
“The fact is, prisoners have a constitutional right to be protected from sexual abuse,” Chaney explained.
“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.
“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. They are prey.”
PinkNews contacted the Michigan Department of Correction for comment.