Transgender Inmate Can’t Sue Over Sexual Assault

     ORLANDO, Fla. (CN) – A transgender who was sexually assaulted in the Orange County jail failed to prove that the county deliberately risked her safety, a federal judge ruled.
     D.B., a male-to-female transgender who was diagnosed with gender dysphoria as a teenager and received treatment for the condition, was sexually assaulted by a cellmate in 2008 while awaiting trial in the Orange County jail.
     She claimed she repeatedly asked prison officials to house her separately from male inmates. Nevertheless, the officers ignored her requests and placed her with the general prison population, according to her 2012 lawsuit.
     She said officials denied her requests for protective custody, concluding that “she was not genuinely in fear but was instead trying to avoid disciplinary confinement.”
     Prison officials refused to transfer her even after D.B. told them that “inmates were shaking their penises at her” and saying they wanted to have sex with her, according to the complaint.
     D.B.’s cellmate, Josh Bailey, sexually assaulted her in December 2008, shortly after officers transferred her into the cell. Bailey was convicted of sexual battery for the assault and received a 25-year sentence.
     D.B. sued the county for negligence and constitutional violations, alleging that officials had ignored the risk of sexual assault she faced and failed to protect her.
     U.S. District Judge Gregory Presnell concluded last week there was enough evidence to suggest that transgender inmates face a greater risk of sexual violence than other inmates.
     A criminologist who has studied prison violence testified that transgender inmates are 13 times more likely to be sexually assaulted than other inmates, according to the Sept. 18 ruling.
     But D.B. failed to show that Orange County was deliberately indifferent to the increased risk transgender inmates allegedly face, Presnell wrote.
     The county had no knowledge of previous assaults against transgender inmates, and therefore it reasonably considered its policies sufficient to protect them, the ruling states.
     A slew of recent lawsuits have challenged prisons’ treatment of transgender inmates, who are particularly vulnerable to sexual violence and abuse. Most states do not have transgender prison facilities, but some prisons have taken extra precautions to protect vulnerable inmates.

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