A black transgender woman has filed a lawsuit against Marion Correctional Institute, claiming she was mistreated while she was an inmate there.
The plaintiff was sent to Marion Correctional Institute in August 2018 after getting convicted of grand theft and possessing criminal tools.
Marion Correctional Institute is a medium security prison that houses about 2,500 male inmates.
The lawsuit claims that the plaintiff faced immediate risk of harm when she arrived to the prison because of her transgender status. Staff members and other prisoners called her derogatory and offensive names.
“[She] felt immediate bias based on her gender from MCI staff and other prisoners and complained of such mistreatment to staff,” the lawsuit says. “Implicit and explicit bias towards transgender inmates by … MCI staff, and their policies is an everyday reality.”
When the plaintiff filed complaints with the prison administrators, they assigned her to be a cellmate with violent offender Joseph Hughey, who is known to have ties with white supremacy groups. He allegedly subjected the plaintiff to repeated harassment and threats.
The abuse came to a head when Hughey allegedly sexually assaulted her on two occasions in December 2018 and January 2019.
“[The defendants] were all deliberately indifferent to serious risks of harm to [the woman] and they all failed to protect her,” the lawsuit argues. “[The woman] has suffered severe and permanent physical, psychological, and emotional damage as a result of these failures.”
A spokesman said the Ohio corrections department takes any allegation of sexual assault seriously and has been recognized by the American Correctional Association for its commitment to protecting inmates from rape and other violent attacks.
“The lawsuit discusses protection and safety issues…,” spokesman Sara French said. “We have several policies in place that pertain to these items.”
All inmates are screened for the risk of being sexuall abused by other inmates or the risk of being sexually abusive towards others, according to ODRC’s policy regarding lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex individuals.
Jail staff said that they deal with each person’s set of circumstances on a case-by-case basis, whether that person is transgender or not.
“We try to treat individuals that identify as transgender just like any other individual,” said Director of Inmate Services, Aaron Nolan.