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California: CDCR Pays $5,000 to Settle Failure-to-Protect Suit Brought by Pre-Operative Transsexual Prisoner

In April 2010, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) signed off on a settlement agreement of $5,000 to Lorenzo Carl Paynes in exchange for a voluntary dismissal of Paynes’ federal lawsuit alleging that CDCR officials had violated his Eight Amendment rights. Paynes, a pre-operative transsexual prisoner who goes by the name Sieda, filed suit in 2004 pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that in March 2003, while housed at High Desert State Prison, he was assaulted in his cell after refusing the sexual demands of another prisoner. (Paynes refers to himself in the masculine gender throughout the complaint).

Paynes alleges that he was subsequently threatened by other prisoners to sign what is known as a “marriage chrono,” indicating that he could be housed with the prisoner who had attempted to sexually assault him. He further alleges that medical staff intentionally overlooked and misrepresented the injuries he had sustained when he was physically assaulted, as well as that custody staff manipulated him to believe that his request for a transfer to a safer prison for transgenders would be honored if he withdrew the staff complaint he had filed against the officer who allowed his assailant to enter his cell.

Instead of honoring this request, however, officials placed Paynes in administrative segregation and then released him back to the mainline, where he faced renewed threats. According to the complaints, Paynes’ letters and pleas to prison officials to be transferred to a safer environment were repeatedly ignored. See: Paynes v. Runnels, U.S.D.C. (E.D. Cal.), Case No. 2:04-cv-01868-MCE-KJM.

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Related legal case

Paynes v. Runnels