A 55-year-old woman is suing the employees of a Florida jail after being held with male inmates because medical personnel classified her as transgender.
Fior Pichardo de Veloz, who is an attorney from the Dominican Republic, sued medical personnel within the Miami-Dade County Corrections Department after they booked her under the wrong gender, only to see a federal judge throw out her lawsuit, claiming that jail staff members are protected from cases of negligence.
The lawsuit has since been reinstated via an appeals court.
"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," said Judge Frank Hull in his opinion.
Pichardo de Veloz's treatment is sadly common for transgender inmates, and her treatment further underscores the need to reform the way incarcerated transgender people are treated in prisons.
Fior Pichardo de Veloz was arrested on an outstanding drug charge in the Miami airport after arriving to the United States to be present for the birth of a grandchild. All was typical in processing until an attending nurse, Fatu Kamara Harris, noted that Pichardo de Veloz was taking hormone replacement medications.
Pichardo de Veloz is on HRT as part of her menopausal care. HRT is also common amongst transgender people. Pichardo de Veloz, however, is not transgender.
The nurse questioned Pichardo de Veloz about her gender and, in spite of her insistence that she is a woman, the nurse appended her paperwork to add the words "Transgender, male parts, female tendencies."
An attending doctor, Dr. Fredesvindo Rodriguez-Garcia, did not do a physical examination of Pichardo de Veloz, nor did he ask any questions about her gender identity. The doctor, nevertheless, reclassified Pichardo de Veloz as male.
Harris was not present when Pichardo de Veloz met with the doctor, but told a jail officer that "everything fell out" -- referring to Pichardo de Veloz's genitals -- during the examination. Harris also told an officer that Pichardo de Veloz was a man when questioned.
As a result of the medical team's bungling, Pichardo de Veloz was transferred to the all-male Metro West Detention Center, and placed in a cell with roughly 40 men for roughly 10 hours.
Afraid amid taunting and leering from the other inmates, Pichardo de Veloz urinated on herself rather than use restroom facilities in the cell.
It wasn't until family members arrived and began to question the placement of Pichardo de Veloz that the error was discovered. Her humiliation was not complete, however, as officers present at her second examination mocked and photographed her.
Now, thanks to the appeals court decision, Pichardo de Veloz's lawsuit can continue.
Photo via Miami-Dade Corrections
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