Lindsay Saunders-Velez claims she was raped at a Colorado prison just hours after a judge threw out her request to keep corrections officers from keeping her in a disciplinary unit. She has claimed that she has been threatened, assaulted and harassed since last spring when she entered the Colorado prison system.
Saunders-Velez has since filed a lawsuit against the state’s corrections agency, claiming the system is both “discriminatory and dangerous” for transgender offenders. Just last month her lawyers requested a judge to not send her to the “punishment pod” for a disciplinary infraction citing she could face the inmates that tormented her. The judge ruled that her attorneys failed to show imminent risk, and rejected the request. Records show that Saunders-Velez was attacked several times while in the unit and one time needs more than a week in the infirmary to recover.
Under Federal law, prisons are required to asses individuals to asses where to house transgender persons says Demoya Gordon, an attorney with LGBTQ+ advocacy group Lambda Legal’s transgender rights project. But added that most facilities house inmates based on their genitalia or birth gender, which results in most being abused or raped during their sentence.
In her lawsuit, she stated that after she was sent to Colorado correctional facility that her problems started with other inmates. Court records show incidents where male prisoners would pull down a privacy screen Saunders-Velez used to use the bathroom in her cell. She also alleges that other prisoners threatened her, and reported an inmate sexually assaulted her during a transfer to another Colorado prison.
As a result Saunder-Velez in an attempt “to escape,” she swallowed razors and was sent the hospital and was reassigned to “territorial”, according to her attorney. Prison staff also refused to call her Lindsay and to be identified with female pronouns. Officials also refused requests that she be searched by a woman.
The 2012 Bureau of Justice statistic suggests that about 3,200 inmates in the United States both state and federal identified as transgender. 40 percent of transgender reported being abused, assaulted or raped by other inmates or staff members.
An inmate in Colorado is suing the corrections department over treatments of transgender people. The agency is unable to comment on ongoing litigation.