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BOP Pays $70,000 to Settle Lawsuit by Sexually Abused Transgender Prisoner

Samantha Hill, a male-to-female transgender prisoner in the custody of the federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP), was raped at USP Florence in December 2013 – one of many sexual assaults the BOP failed to prevent through either neglect or incompetence, despite the requirements of the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA). Through the efforts of a legal team that included attorney Elisabeth L. Owen with the Prisoners’ Justice League of Colorado, Hill was finally vindicated after the BOP agreed to a comprehensive settlement that included an agreement to provide her with appropriate housing and medical treatment, as well as monetary damages of $70,000.

According to Hill’s second amended complaint, “As early as 2005 [her] prison psychologists recognized her gender identity issues, reporting in her file that [she] ‘continues to very appropriately discuss relevant gender identity and sexuality issues, as they relate to [her] functioning ... [and her] transition to community and desire for healthy relationships.’”

Although numerous prison psychologists and medical experts employed by or working for the BOP recommended against housing Hill in a USP, the most dangerous setting for federal prisoners, BOP officials persisted in placing her in situations where she was continually abused, raped and subjected to not only sexual predation but also ridicule and insults from the very staff members sworn to protect her.

Under the settlement agreement, Hill, who has identified as female since her childhood, will now receive “hormone therapy and mental health treatment to evaluate whether additional gender dysphoria treatment, including sex reassignment surgery, is appropriate every six months into the future,” according to Owen, her attorney. Hill was transferred to FCI Butner, which Owen termed “overcrowded” and unsuitable for such treatment, but superior to the succession of USP facilities where Hill endured numerous assaults and injuries.

“I had the distinct pleasure of watching Samantha look an associate warden in the eye and tell her that she did not deserve to be raped eight times in BOP custody and that she did not care whether the BOP thought it was difficult to house her safely, they are legally obligated to do it and they’re going to do it,” Owen stated.

Additionally, Owen said she was pleased with the June 2015 settlement because it “not only secured legal rights for [Hill], but empowered her,” and noted that in her opinion the BOP was “not interested in ... having it publicly known that they let transgendered prisoners get raped as, essentially, a matter of policy.” Owen also credited her co-counsel with the law firm of Bryan Cave LLP, including Stephen Gurr and Sarah Hartley, for their assistance in the case. See: Hill v. United States, U.S.D.C. (D. Colo.), Case No. 1:13-cv-03404-MSK-NYW. 

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Related legal case

Hill v. United States