EL PASO COUNTY, Colo. (KRDO) -- Filed in a federal court on June 1, a trans woman is suing El Paso County and Sheriff Bill Elder for discrimination and violating her constitutional rights after she was booked into the jail back in 2020.
In the lawsuit, obtained by 13 Investigates, Juniper Mcginn accuses El Paso County Sheriff's deputies of subjecting her to a "humiliating" cross-gender visual body-cavity search despite asking for a female deputy to conduct the entire search.
Mcginn was taken into custody on June 2, 2020, while participating in a Black Lives Matter protest in the wake of the murder of George Floyd.
"Ms. Mcginn was told that, per El Paso County policy, a female deputy would watch her shower, and conduct a visual body-cavity search of, the top half of her body then a male deputy would watch her shower, and conduct a visual body-cavity search of, the bottom half of her body," Mcginn's attorney says writes in the lawsuit. "In other words, despite her explicit request to have only a woman deputy present during her shower and visual body-cavity search, per El Paso County policy, custom, and practice, multiple male deputies watched her shower."
The lawsuit goes on to accuse multiple male El Paso County deputies of watching her shower and laughing at her while she bathed. Mcginn says she suffered "significant emotional trauma from the humiliation she was subjected to at the El Paso County Jail."
Mcginn's attorneys say it is customary for male El Paso County deputies to humiliate trans women during visual body-cavity searches in the jail. The suit names a second trans woman taken into custody in El Paso County 18 days after Mcginn's experience.
"El Paso County Jail performed a visual body-cavity search of a transgender woman named Darlene Griffith in a similarly humiliating manner to Ms. McGinn," the suit said. "Ms. Griffith told both deputies that, because she is transgender, she does not want a male deputy to be present. The female deputy told Ms. Griffith that, per her sergeant’s orders, the male deputy would stay throughout the entire strip-out process. The female deputy told Ms. Griffith that because she was “still a male” in El Paso County’s “system” a male deputy would be conducting her visual body-cavity search pursuant to El Paso County policy and procedure."
The lawsuit alleges a female deputy purposely misgendered Griffith before leaving her alone with a male deputy.
The court documents detail what a male deputy is accused of telling her during the visual body-cavity search.
The suit alleges the deputy told Griffith that she had "not tell anyone about what he did and said to her."
While her experience is detailed in the suit, Griffith is not named as a plaintiff in this lawsuit and it's unclear if she is suing for discrimination as well.
As for Mcginn, she is asking for relief after she believes she was discriminated against, unreasonably searched, and the incident was an invasion of her bodily privacy. Her attorney says the cross-gender visual body-cavity search violated her 14th amendment rights.
13 Investigates reached out to the El Paso County Sheriff's Office for comment on the lawsuit. A spokesperson for EPCSO said via email "we cannot comment on pending litigation."
However, the Sheriff's Office did provide 13 Investigates with their policies regarding visual body cavity searches and transgender inmates.
According to El Paso County Sheriffs Office's policy manual, a Training Director at the jail will ensure that members have training that includes (28 CFR 115.115):
- Conducting searches of cross-gender individuals.
- Conducting searches of transgender and intersex individuals.
- Conducting searches in a professional and respectful manner, and in the least intrusive manner possible, consistent with security needs.
The federal law (28 CFR 115.115) states that "the lockup shall not conduct cross-gender strip searches or cross-gender visual body cavity searches (meaning a search of the anal or genital opening) except in exigent circumstances or when performed by medical practitioners."
When it comes to showering "the lockup shall implement policies and procedures that enable detainees to shower, perform bodily functions, and change clothing without nonmedical staff of the opposite gender
viewing their breasts, buttocks, or genitalia, except in exigent circumstances or when such viewing is incidental to routine cell checks. Such policies and procedures shall require staff of the opposite gender to announce their presence when entering an area where detainees are likely to be showering, performing bodily functions, or changing clothing."