A Texas transgender woman is suing Dallas County, saying jail employees forced her to show her genitals as well as share holding areas and shower with male inmates — some of whom masturbated while looking at her.
Valerie Jackson, 32, filed suit Friday in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, citing mistreatment on three occasions, The Dallas Morning News reports.
Jackson was arrested in November 2016 for carrying a handgun in her purse when she went through security at Dallas’s Love Field airport, according to the Morning News. She was taken to Dallas County Jail, where she was initially classified as a woman. In a private section of the jail, she was asked to show her breasts, which she did. Then a nurse asked about her last menstrual period, and she said she didn’t have a period because she is transgender.
A male employee at the jail appeared shocked and then asked why her paperwork said she was female. She replied that she is female, but the employee inquired, “Did you have a sex change or something? ... Have you had everything done down there?” Although Jackson had not had genital surgery, she said she had because she thought it would end that line of questioning. But it didn’t, and the jail staff forced her to expose her genitals.
“You’re going with the men because that’s what you are,” one employee then told her, according to the suit. “You’re a man.” She was placed in a solitary cell adjacent to the cells where men are housed. Male inmates, the suit says, asked if she was a “real girl,” called her a “he/she,” and talked about sexual acts they wanted to perform with her.
Jackson avoided having to shower with men in this instance because her attorney posted bond for her with an electronic funds transfer, so she was released. A few months later, a grand jury declined to indict her for the weapons violation.
But she was arrested on two subsequent occasions, once for trespassing and the next time for interfering with an emergency call; both are misdemeanor charges and are still pending. Both times, she was subjected to humiliating treatment at the jail, including being forced to shower with men, according to her suit. Each time, a male inmate masturbated while watching her in the shower, the suit says.
The suit asserts that the jail staff violated the federal Prison Rape Elimination Act, which states that jails “shall not search or physically examine a transgender or intersex detainee for the sole purpose of determining the detainee's genital status.” It further says the staff violated the county’s own policy. “The county’s policy for housing transgender inmates requires that a decision be made after medical, psychological and medication needs are assessed,” the Morning News reports.
Defendants named in the suit include Dallas County Sheriff Marian Brown as well as Brown’s predecessor, Lupe Valdez, who was the county’s first lesbian sheriff and the Democratic nominee for governor in Tuesday’s election, which she lost to Republican incumbent Greg Abbott. Several other county employees are also listed as defendants. The Morning News sought comment from an aide to Brown, who declined to discuss pending litigation.
Jackson’s suit seeks “unspecified damages for ‘emotional distress, torment and mental anguish,’ financial expenses and attorney fees,” the Morning News reports. She is seeking a jury trial.