Transgender inmate sues Colorado state prison system, settlement reached
The Colorado Department of Corrections announced it reached a settlement with a transgender inmate on Wednesday.
The inmate, Lindsay Saunders-Velez, alleged she was raped more than once at a men's prison in Cañon City.
“Having recently come to Colorado from another state corrections system, I can attest to the fact that the Colorado Department of Corrections is leading on issues relating to transgender rights,” said CDOC Executive Director Dean Williams. “Colorado DOC has worked diligently to develop and implement policies and procedures directly aimed at the fair, appropriate, and respectful treatment of transgender offenders. The corrections environment presents unique challenges and issues that are not present in ordinary community settings, but we strive to achieve the best possible balance between the desire to protect the dignity of all offenders, with the need to ensure their safety. We will continue to be inclusive and sensitive to the needs of all of our LGBTQI offenders.”
The details of the settlement were not released by the department. In a statement sent out to the public the Colorado Department of Corrections added, "The settlement will prevent further extending a costly legal process."
The 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.