Lawsuit alleges trans women are being held in unsafe situations that have led to harassment, violence, and rape

Today Transgender Law Center (TLC) and King & Greisen, LLP filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of all transgender women who are or will be in the custody of the Colorado Department of Corrections (CDOC). The lawsuit claims that the CDOC has discriminated against transgender women solely on the basis of their gender identity and that these women have been subjected to unsafe situations, including severe sexual harassment, physical violence, and rape.

“Right now there are around 170 transgender women who Colorado incarcerates with men.  Thousands of transgender women are locked up in men’s prisons around the country, and as a result, they are often subjected to horrifying abuse,” said Shawn Meerkamper, senior staff attorney with TLC. “We’ve filed this lawsuit as an urgent reminder that when the state takes away someone’s freedom, they take on the responsibility for their well-being and safety.”

The lawsuit states that the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act and the Colorado Constitution mandate that CDOC must provide transgender women the same rights and privileges accorded to other people in their custody. This includes housing accommodations that ensure that the women are housed in a safe manner that respects their identity, and that they are provided necessary medical and mental health care.

The seven women named as class representative also have gender dysphoria – which courts have recognized as a condition requiring accommodation under disability rights laws. The lawsuit goes on to explain that not receiving proper treatment for gender dysphoria often results in severe depression and anxiety, as well as suicidal behavior.   

Paula Greisen of King & Greisen, LLP, the Denver-based civil rights law firm leading the class action, stated that “many of the transgender women we have talked to live in constant fear that they will be sexually assaulted and that no matter how much they complain, no one cares.  We have worked hard with the CDOC to implement some changes, and we applaud the efforts that the State has taken to date – but the vast majority of transgender women in Colorado prisons are not protected.  The time to protect all these women is now.”

Read the complaint here or below:

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