Last month, a transgender woman filed a lawsuit against the El Paso County Sheriff's Office in Colorado for conducting a "humiliating" cross-gender visual body cavity search on her. The suit, filed in the United States District Court for Colorado, claims the sheriff and the jail staff mistreat transgender inmates.
The plaintiff, Juniper McGinn, alleges she was arrested and jailed for participating in a Black Lives Matter protest following George Floyd's death on June 2, 2020.
As she was being arrested, McGinn requested a woman conduct the body cavity search, but deputies told her that a woman could only examine the top half of her body while a male was responsible for the rest, the lawsuit claims.
During McGinn's visual body cavity search and shower, she says five deputies watched the process and laughed at her.
"There was no basis to have five deputies watching Ms. McGinn as she showered and was subjected to a visual body-cavity search," the lawsuit states. "El Paso County officials' derogatory visual body-cavity search of Ms. McGinn led her to suffer significant emotional distress."
El Paso County jail's procedure for searching transgender individuals, McGinn says in the suit, is "humiliating," "discriminatory," and "unconstitutional."
McGinn's suit also referrs to an incident in 2020 when a deputy allegedly sexually harassed a transgender woman named Darlene Griffith at the jail. Griffith, too, was subjected to a visual cavity search by a male deputy who made derogatory remarks during the search, according to the lawsuit.
"The male deputy then told Ms. Griffith to step back, bend over, and 'spread [her] sexy cheeks.' Ms. Griffith protested the male deputy's use of this derogatory language but complied with his directive," the suit claims. "The male deputy then told Ms. Griffith that he was 'going to go balls deep in that ass' while grabbing his own penis in view of Ms. Griffith."
The El Paso County jail never disciplined deputies who participated in Griffin's search, according to the lawsuit. "What happened to Ms. Griffith is another example of the derogatory actions that are customarily inflicted on transgender women at the El Paso County jail," it states.
The suit argues that the local sheriff is to blame for perpetuating the alleged discriminatory policies at the jail.
"In fact, the El Paso County Jail's policies, which were promulgated by Sheriff Bill Elder, required that deputies perform highly invasive cross-gender visual body cavity searches of transgender inmates," McGinn and her attorneys claim in the suit.
McGinn is requesting a jury trial and compensatory and punitive damages for the "significant emotional trauma from the humiliation she was subjected to at the El Paso County Jail."
Elder was first elected in 2014, and due to term limits, his position ends in January 2023. Democrat John Foley will face off against Republican Joe Roybal in the upcoming November election. Roybal is currently undersheriff and favored to win in the heavily Republican area, The Gazette reports. El Paso County's next sheriff will lead the state's largest sheriff's office.
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