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D.C. Guards Fired for Failing to Recognize Female Prisoner in Male Unit

The District of Columbia Jail has fired three guards that failed to realize a woman was being held in the male detention center, even after she had been strip searched and forced to shower with male prisoners. This is a classic situation of officials paying more attention to what is on paper than what can be seen with their own eyes.

The situation began on April 28, 2007, when Virginia Grace Soto, 47, was arrested on suspicion of prostitution. When Sgt. Tania Bell of D.C.’s Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit found Soto belligerent and incomprehensible during an interview that was partly conducted in Spanish, Bell classified Soto as a “transgendered [sic] male.”

Soto was released on her own recognizance, but failed to show up for trial. She was arrested again on July 14 on drug-related charges. While guards and hospital records suspected Soto was a woman, she was processed based on her April computer records.

She was then placed in a solitary holding cell reserved for men. After two weekend nights in that cell, she was taken to court by U.S. Marshalls to D.C. Superior Court. She informed the Marshalls she was a man, but was “mocked” and called “thing.”

At the D.C. Jail, Soto was strip searched by two guards. They were confronted by a 5 foot 3, 130 pound person of slight build with brown eyes and brown hair. When strip searched, Soto covered her genitals with her hand. The only thing the guards noticed that was unusual was a “bandage” on the lower right side of her back.

While guards may have noticed nothing unusual, the prisoner responsible for issuing prison clothes did. He saw Soto naked and yelled out she was a woman. Although one guard acknowledged hearing the prisoner yell out, he did nothing. Soto then entered the shower and bathed with four male prisoners.

After she was photographed, x-rayed, and given an arm band, she told a guard she was female. “Sure you are,” the guard replied, “but your identification says otherwise.”

Finally, while in a holding cell, Soto got the attention of Cpl. Maria Duncan, who spoke to her in Spanish. Duncan had Soto removed from the cell and examined by a doctor, who could see with his eyes that Soto was a woman.

The guards will be fired because procedures “within the inmate reviewing process were in place that should have made this determination sooner if they were more stringently adhered to.”

Source: Washington Post.

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