Grandmother sues after being booked into all-male jail because staff thought she was transgender

Posted at 10:43 AM, Dec 02, 2018
and last updated 2018-12-02 11:43:02-05

MIAMI (RNN) - After a nurse and doctor at a Miami jail allegedly deemed a woman transgender because she was taking hormone pills, she was forced to stay in an all-male holding cell. Now, she’s suing them.

Fior Pichardo de Veloz, now 55, is an attorney and local elected official in the Dominican Republic. A federal appeals court ruled Nov. 21 that her lawsuit against Dr. Fredesvindo Rodriguez-Garcia and nurse Fatu Kamara Harris could proceed, according to the Miami Herald.

“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,” wrote Judge Frank Hull in the unanimous opinion.

In 2013, Pichardo arrived in Miami to witness the birth of her grandchild. She was arrested on an outstanding drug charge and taken to Turner Guilford Knight Correctional Center. While there, she was processed as a woman and strip searched.

But when she was taken to the medical unit for a routine checkup, Harris allegedly decided Pichardo was a man because she had been taking hormone pills.

According to the Herald, Pichardo was undergoing hormone replacement therapy to help with the symptoms of menopause, which is common for women in their 50s.

Despite Pichardo’s insistence she was a woman, Harris and Rodriguez-Garcia allegedly wrote in her file that she was “transgender, male parts, female tendencies.”

Rodriguez-Garcia never performed a physical examination on Pichardo, the Herald reports.

Pichardo was transferred to the all-male jail Metro West Detention Center, where she was left in a large holding cell with about 40 men for more than 10 hours. She was so afraid to use the toilet that “she urinated on herself instead,” according to the opinion.

Pichardo was only removed from the all-male jail when her family members demanded to know why she’d been booked there and she was re-examined.

During the examination, several male officers laughed at her, and someone took a photo of her while she was undressed, the Herald reports.

Once a nurse determined Pichardo was biologically female, she was returned to Turner Guilford Knight.

Pichardo’s lawsuit, first filed in 2016, was initially thrown out by a federal judge, who said the jail staffers were protected from a trial for negligence.

However, the appeals court disagreed, ruling the nurse and doctor’s conduct “deliberate indifference" to the evidence Pichardo was a woman.

Pichardo’s lawyer told the Herald he and his client are “pleased” with the decision.

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