PITTSBURGH (AP/KDKA) – A transgender woman says in a lawsuit that she was physically and sexually assaulted during stays at a Pennsylvania jail, because staff refused to place her with female inmates.
The lawsuit by 37-year-old Jules Williams names Allegheny County and jail administrators as defendants.
Attorney Alec Wright says Williams was housed with a male inmate despite having identified as female since she was a teenager and being in possession of a birth certificate and state ID reflecting that identification.
She says she was sexually assaulted and also physically and verbally abused during incarcerations from 2015 to this year.
Her attorneys say it started during intake when a sergeant told inmates she was a transgender woman.
“It prompted those male inmates to make vulgar attacks, physical threats, sexual threats to Miss Williams that she had to endure,” Wright said. “It’s not just the male inmates, mind you, that engage in these practices. It’s the staff as well.”
Wright says after she complained about her safety, Williams was moved to protective custody and put in a cell with a male inmate.
“It was over a period of the next four days that Miss Williams was repeatedly raped by this male inmate despite her cries for help, including an electronic communications system that are within the cell, as well as going to an individual named defendant in this lawsuit to complain,” Wright said.
“It was something that I have nightmares about, and I try to put it all behind me and move past it, but it’s been one of the most reoccurring horrific things that I ever had to go through,” Williams said.
Attorneys say they’re asking for damages for the harm she suffered, and they want the jail to change policy.
“What we would like the jail to do is to, at the very least, follow federal law, which requires jails and prisons to make a case-by-case determination about where to house transgender individuals,” ACLU attorney Sara Rose said.
Williams hopes her lawsuit will prevent other transgender women from suffering the mental and physical abuse that she claims she endured at the Allegheny County Jail.
KDKA is told that of the 20 or so transgender women in the state prison system, only one is housed with the female population. It’s hoped the lawsuit will pave the way towards changing those numbers.
(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)