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Transgender Woman Who Says She Was Raped, Beaten, Sues Brooklyn Metropolitan Detention Center

A transgender woman who was housed with male prisoners at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn, N.Y. (MDC), sued the federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) on the grounds that staff ignored her requests for safety, resulting in her allegedly being repeatedly beaten and raped in a male housing unit.

The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York on March 18, 2020. It claimed that staff at the MDC refused to recognize Tavoy Malcolm’s female identity and forced her to house with male prisoners, instead of at the women’s unit or in protective custody. Malcolm, 29, who uses the name Tiana Miller, was placed in the MDC in May 2017 after her arrest for fraud and theft.

The lawsuit says Malcolm was undergoing the physical transformation from male to female at time of her arrest, including hormone therapy and breast augmentation surgery. She had “developed a feminine shape and other female characteristics,” court papers says. At intake, Malcolm told staff that she identified as female and wanted to be placed in female housing or in segregation, not with male prisoners.

She initially refused when she was ordered to go into male housing. It wasn’t until a female lieutenant convinced her she would be safe that she agreed to go in.

In short order, Malcolm’s cellmate beat her and she was placed in segregation, her suit says. Upon release from segregation, she was placed back in the same male housing unit where she was again beaten and sodomized, her lawsuit stated, adding that her cellmate “had a known history of violence and mental issues.” Only then did the BOP move her to a female housing unit — where she suffered harassment from BOP guards.

Malcolm claims that MDC staff should have known she was at risk for violence and sexual assault. Her lawsuit cites a Department of Justice memorandum from March 24, 2016, notifying BOP staff that “being transgender is a known risk factor for being sexually victimized in confinement settings.” She also cites a Bureau of Justice Statistics report that found transgender prisoners are nine times more likely than other prisoners to be sexually harassed or assaulted in the first year of incarceration.

Malcolm’s lawyer, Brett Klein, demanded a jury trial for her claims, and for “full and fair compensatory damages,” punitive damages, and attorney’s fees. See: Malcolm v. United States, USDC (E.D.N.Y.), Case No. 1:20-cv-01450.  

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Related legal case

Malcolm v. United States