A transgender woman has filed a lawsuit against staff at the Michigan Department of Corrections where she was imprisoned, claiming she was raped after staff forced her to share a cell with a convicted rapist and murderer. According to a report in The Detroit News, the inmate identified as Jane Doe was supposed to be housed with other inmates experiencing gender dysphoria at the G. Robert Cotton Correctional Facility in Jackson, but staff allegedly ignored the directive and her pleas for help. The suit claims that in January 2020, the staff laughed when the inmate warned Doe would not be safe with him. Doe’s allegations go further, claiming she was raped a second time by another inmate after staff forced her to share a cell with him following her return from the hospital. He was also a convicted rapist.
The lawsuit claims staff “acted with deliberate indifference by knowingly and recklessly disregarding the excessive risk to Plaintiff’s health and safety, of which they were aware, resulting in Plaintiff’s sexual assault.” The suit seeks unspecified punitive and compensatory damages.
Rather than follow prison guidelines for transgender prisoners, the suit states that staff instead placed Doe in a cell with “a known rapist and murderer imprisoned for life for killing a woman during sexual intercourse.” When Doe protested, she claimed an officer threatened to punish her even as her dangerous cellmate was “intimating” he was a threat to Doe and “that it would be better for her to go to the hole.” Doe told staff she was later raped, and was taken to a hospital shortly thereafter.
Following her return from the hospital, the lawsuit claims that Doe was placed in a cell with another inmate imprisoned for “first-degree criminal sexual conduct" and was a "self-professed rapist." Doe filed a grievance and received an intervention from a therapist vying for her to be moved — there were single-person cells available, — prison officials accused her of lying and did nothing. The lawsuit alleges she woke up that night as the cellmate was raping her.
Only following the second rape allegation was Doe transferred to an appropriate facility.
The lawsuit claims MDOC staff violated Doe’s Eighth Amendment rights by acting with “deliberate indifference” and “knowingly and recklessly disregarding the excessive risk to Plaintiff’s health and safety, of which they were aware, resulting in Plaintiff’s sexual assault.”
Chris Gautz, the spokesman for the MDOC, declined to issue a statement saying the department does not comment on “pending litigation.”