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Wednesday, July 17, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Woman Locked|in a Men’s Prison

HONOLULU (CN) - A hermaphrodite who underwent surgery to become a woman claims Hawaii incarcerated her in a men's prison where she was, predictably, raped. The 33-year-old woman says the state locked her up in its largest men's prison despite her repeated protests during intake that she is a woman.

Dione Kaeo-Tomaselli sued the Hawaii Department of Public Safety for civil rights violations, in state court.

According to her complaint, Kaeo-Tomaselli had a sex change operation in 1998 to change from hermaphrodite to woman. (Hermaphrodites are born with both ovarian and testicular tissue, because their tissues have failed to fully differentiate - one to regress and the other to fully express - during gestation. Most medical experts have replaced the stigmatized term with "intersex," which describes a family of sexual development disorders. Hermpahroditism is common in plants and invertebrates.)

In 2009, Kaeo-Tomaselli was sentenced to 10 years in prison, for a crime which is not specified in her complaint. After conviction, she says, she was immediately transferred to and processed as a prisoner at the Halawa Correctional Facility (HCF) on Oahu.

"During the intake process, Ms. Tomaselli informed HCF staff ... that she was a female and did not belong at HCF, but rather at the Women's Community Correctional Center (WCC)," according to the complaint. "However, despite Ms. Tomaselli's repeated complaints, the State of Hawaii Department of Public Safety failed and/or refused appropriate corrective action."

She was sexually assaulted by an inmate during her first week in prison, and was being transferred to the Women's Community Correctional Center 2 months later, where she remains.

Kaeo-Tomaselli seeks punitive damages for cruel and unusual punishment, gross negligence, deliberate indifference, sexual assault and battery and negligent infliction of emotional stress. She is represented by Donald Wilkerson.

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