Fior Pichardo de Veloz, a cisgender woman visiting from the Dominican Republic was arrested November 2013 on an outstanding warrant at Miami customs.
But due to a medical condition, she was taken to a hospital where a nurse at intake noticed that she takes estrogen and due to male tells mistakenly identified her as transgender.
Fior Pichardo de Veloz wasn’t transgender, a class of people who are routinely beaten and raped while incarcerated. No, Her life was much more valuable than that a judge ruled on appeals saying that she was unduly placed in harm’s way when she was locked up with men.
“Grandma mistakenly booked into all-male jail, staff thought she was transgender” the Miami Herald headline reports that “Her shame was compounded when a federal judge threw out her [first] lawsuit, saying the jail staffers were protected from a trial for negligence.”
That error “changed my life,” the lawyer said in tears, who has since had to prove she’s a woman and withstand the “sarcasm” her case has spurred.
Veloz, a politician of the conservative PRSC party and councilmember in her city when she was arrested, told Dominican Today when the policeman escorted her to her cell wished her good luck in Spanish and told her that he expects to see her alive the next day.
Pichardo sued the county and jail staff for negligence and “cruel and unusual punishment,” seeking $750K in damages. But the case was thrown out by a judge who said the jail staffers were protected from a trial for negligence.
But this month, an appeals court ruled the conduct of the nurse and doctor amounts to “deliberate indifference, the newspaper reported.
But clearly disturbed by the outrageous mistake, a federal appeals court this month reinstated the lawsuit against the jail doctor and nurse who insisted jail officers book Pichardo as a man — even though a strip search had already shown she was a woman.
“Every reasonable prison officer and medical personnel would have known that wrongfully misclassifying a biological female as a male inmate and placing that female in the male population of a detention facility was unlawful,” Judge Frank Hull wrote in an unanimous opinion.
In 2012, NPR’s Carrie Johnson reported on President Obama’s announcement that the 2003 Prison Rape Elimination Act applied to people in all federal facilities, not just those overseen by the Justice Department and Federal Bureau of Prisons. Some new standards accompanied the expansion of that law:
“The new standards forbid pat downs of female inmates by guards of the opposite sex, require prisons to do more to advise inmates of their rights and services that could help them, and impose audits every three years by an independent overseer. The standards also direct authorities to decide on a case by case basis whether to house transgender inmates in a male or female facility.”
A statement released Friday by the National Center for Transgender Equality accuses the new Bureau of Prisons revisions of violating that law:
“This change stands in direct defiance of the Prison Rape Elimination Act, which mandates prison officials must screen all individuals at admission and upon transfer to assess their risk of experiencing abuse. The new policy strips away these guidelines and encourages broad, blanket placement of prisoners based on their sex assigned at birth.”
But Nancy Ayers, a spokesperson for the Bureau of Prisons, told Buzzfeed News she believes the policy does consider individual needs in accordance with the Prison Rape Elimination Act: “The manual now addresses and articulates the balance of safety needs of transgender inmates as well as other inmates, including those with histories of trauma, privacy concerns, etc., on a case-by-case basis,” she says.
A Justice Department filing from August 2017 foreshadowed these changes. The filing was part of a case in which four evangelical Christian women – Rhonda Fleming, Jeanette Driever, Charlsa Little and Brenda Rhames – challenged Obama-era guidelines for transgender inmates in U.S. District Court. In the lawsuit, the women argued the Bureau of Prisons was violating their constitutional rights by placing transgender inmates in the women’s facilities they were housed in.
The August 2017 filing said the women did not have a strong case at that time. The transgender inmates housed at the two facilities in question — Federal Medical Center, Carswell and Federal Prison Camp, Bryan — were not housed in the same units as the plaintiffs. In addition, the women alleged that the transgender inmates they named in the case had committed certain acts against them, but the Bureau of Prison’s investigation failed to find enough evidence to prove those allegations to be true.
But, the filing did anticipate that Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ new appointee for Federal Bureau of Prisons Director, Mark S. Inch, would likely reevaluate the underlying issues of the four women’s case. Friday’s revisions are perhaps part of that predicted reevaluation.