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New York: $100,000 to Settle Suit over Rape of Trans Prisoner Held in Men’s Prison

by Christopher Zoukis

The New York Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS) agreed to pay $100,000 to settle a lawsuit brought by a male-to-female transgender prisoner who was raped while housed in a men’s prison. The February 5, 2018 settlement included no admission of liability.

LeslieAnn Manning is a 51-year-old transgender woman. She was imprisoned at the New York State Sullivan Correctional Facility in 2013 when she was brutally raped by a fellow prisoner while working on a job detail. Manning, who suffers from myriad health problems, did not immediately report the assault. She did, however, save the clothes she was wearing.

After alerting prison officials of the incident, the clothes were tested and Manning was taken to a hospital. Medical professionals confirmed she had been raped and collected DNA. The perpetrator was identified and disciplined by prison officials while Manning was placed in “protective custody” (segregation), allegedly for her safety.

In January 2015, Manning filed suit in federal court. She alleged that Superintendent Patrick Griffin, Captain Stephen Urbanski, educator Peter Cohen, Sergeant Brian Barlow and guard Daniel Ladenhauf were deliberately indifferent to her safety and subjected her to cruel and unusual punishment. According to her complaint, prison officials were aware of her situation – she came into the system as a transgender woman – but deliberately opted not to protect her from other prisoners.

The fact that DOCCS chose to settle Manning’s suit says something about how poorly she was treated at the Sullivan Correctional Facility. Eighth Amendment deliberate indifference claims are notoriously difficult to win, because the prisoner must establish that prison officials subjectively knew about the risk to their safety and objectively did nothing to alleviate that risk. See: Manning v. Griffin, U.S.D.C. (S.D. NY), Case No. 7:15-cv-00003-KMK.

Susan Hazeldean, director of the Brooklyn Law School’s LGBT Advocacy Clinic, said she hopes the $100,000 settlement will encourage other prison officials to take the safety of transgender prisoners seriously.

Manning is now housed at the Wende Correctional Facility, a men’s prison near Buffalo. DOCCS still refuses to recognize her as a woman, and while she may be safer at Wende, she is still in the wrong prison based on her gender identity.

“Wende is better than where I was before, but there is still harassment from [guards] and comments made about my sexuality,” Manning told “Comments like ‘Is it a man or is it a woman?’ But if I try to report it they deny making these comments.” 

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Related legal case

Manning v. Griffin