Transgender inmate sues state prison system

Canon City, Colo. (KKTV) A transgender inmate alleges she was raped more than once at a men's prison in Cañon City.

She is still behind bars in the place she says she was attacked. She is now suing the state prison system.

Lindsay Saunders-Velez’s attorney tells 11 News she was in the Colorado Youth Correctional System’s female unit a couple of years ago. When she violated her probation, she was then sent to a men’s prison, the Colorado Territorial Correctional Facility in Cañon City.

"There's no other reason why she would be placed in the male facility other than she's not yet had sex reassignment surgery. Most of these young people like Lindsay are abandoned by their parents or rejected. They don't have the funds to get this kind of surgery,” said Saunders-Velez's attorney, Paula Greisen of King & Greisen, LLP.

Saunders-Velez first filed a suit against the Department of Corrections on her own behalf last summer. The lawsuit says she has identified as female since a very young age. When she was 17, she started hormone treatments and developed breasts and other female characteristics.

In the suit, she claims she was denied access to bras and other female undergarments and says the conditions were discriminatory and dangerous for transgender inmates.

A few months later, a memorandum was added to the suit, saying she had been sexually assaulted by another inmate.

"Lindsay looks like a woman, she presents as a woman and she basically was thrown to the sharks. She was petrified,” Greisen said.

Then, a few weeks ago:

"We were informed she was alleged to have kissed another person and therefore received a disciplinary infraction and was going to be sent to the punishment pod of cell house three, which is the worst place you can be,” Greisen said.

Greisen says they begged the attorney general's office to stop that move until they could ensure Saunders-Velez's safety, but a judge said no.

"A few hours after the judge denied our motion to stop the move, Lindsay was brutally raped after being placed in that unit,” Greisen said.

The Department of Corrections told 11 News they cannot comment on active litigation.