TAMPA, FL – A woman is suing employees of a Florida jail after they allegedly forced her to spend several hours in a cell surrounded by dozens of men, because they suspected she was transgender.
The Miami Herald reports 55-year-old Fior Pichardo de Veloz had come to Miami from the Dominican Republic to witness the birth of her grandchild in 2013, when she was arrested at the airport on an outstanding drug charge. Her arrest report listed her as female and Pichardo de Veloz was booked into the Turner Guilford Knight Correctional Center and processed as a woman. She was even strip searched.
Due to her history of high blood pressure, Pichardo de Veloz was examined by a nurse as a precaution. The nurse saw she had been taking hormone pills and questioned her about her gender. Pichardo de Veloz explained she was taking hormone pills to help menopause symptoms, but despite Pichardo de Veloz’s denial of being a man, the nurse. Fatu Kamara Harris, added a note to her file that read: “Transgender, male parts, female tendencies.”
The nurse notified a doctor, Dr. Fredesvindo Rodriguez-Garcia, who reclassified Pichardo de Veloz as male without an examination, according to an appeals court opinion.
Pichardo insisted to an officer she was a woman. “You are a woman. Good luck if you’re alive tomorrow,” the officer replied.
Pichardo was transferred to the Metro West Detention Center, an all-male jail, and shared a cell with about 40 men, who jeered at her yelling “Mami! Mami!”, according to the newspaper. She was there for 10 hours and said she was terrified to go to the bathroom and “urinated on herself instead.”
Jail workers eventually realized their mistake once family members went to the facility where she was originally processed and asked why she was moved.
Pichardo de Veloz was removed from her holding cell and given a new examination. During that exam, she recalled several male officers laughed at her during the examination. She also remembered someone took a photo of her while she was undressed.
Pichardo de Veloz sued the county and jail staff for negligence and “cruel and unusual punishment,” but the case was thrown out by a judge who said the jail staffers were protected from a trial for negligence.
In November, the newspaper reports an appeals court ruled the conduct of the nurse and doctor amounts to “deliberate indifference.”
“Every reasonable prison officer and medical personnel would have known that wrongfully misclassifying a biological female as a male inmate and placing that female in the male population of a detention facility was unlawful,” Judge Frank Hull wrote in an unanimous opinion.