A Black trans woman is claiming in court she was set up by prison staff after reporting she had been the victim of rape and sexual abuse. C. Jay Smith, 59, filed the suit in federal court on Monday, alleging staff at San Quentin State prison in Northern California allowed other prisoners to rape and abuse her, then retaliated when she filed a complaint.
The suit alleges prison guards “allowed multiple men in custody to rape Ms. Smith repeatedly over four consecutive days” in 1998. She was violently raped again in 2013 by a person who “attacked from behind,” leaving her with “even more severe symptoms of PTSD."
Despite having been the victim of rape, physical assault, retaliation, and long periods of isolation beginning with her arrival in prison, Smith did not complain. Finally in March of last year, Smith told her Mental Health Primary Clinician she was being “targeted for sexual violence by a repeat harasser.” This action triggered a mandatory investigation of her claims by authorities, but instead resulted in a "campaign of torture and retaliation."
The complaint says prison staff “subjected her to an unprecedented level of persecution to which Ms. Smith had never been witness, much less been the victim of, during two decades of incarceration.”
Now authorities want to add an extra ten years onto her sentence for possessing a graduation statue Smith says she received as a gift to incentivize her to earn her GED. Prison officials claim is a deadly weapon.
Smith’s case speaks to a larger issue of violence against transgender persons while incarcerated. A 2010 study published in Journal Quarterly found that transgender inmates are “situated at the nexus of intersecting marginalities” and “fare far worse on standard demographic and health measures than their non‐transgender counterparts.”
The 2003 federal Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) requires prison staff to immediately report and document even a suspicion of sexual harassment or assault. The law also requires that housing for transgender inmates must be decided on a case by case basis, taking into account the safety and preferences of the inmate.
Smith is represented by attorneys Jen Orthwein and Felicia Medina, who told NBC New there are “widespread PREA violations” and uses disciplinary action “against folks who are most impacted, such as C. Jay Smith who is a transgender woman of color, because she reported sexual assault.”
“She was set up,” Medina claims.