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Trans woman sues El Paso County Jail for discrimination after visual body cavity search

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):

  1. Conducting searches of cross-gender individuals.
  2. Conducting searches of transgender and intersex individuals.
  3. 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."

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Dan Beedie

Dan is a reporter with the 13 Investigates team. Learn more about Dan here.

Comments

28 Comments

  1. Simple solution. If you have male plumbing a male will conduct the search. If you have female plumbing it will be done by a female. Just because you take hormones and are growing breasts is not relevant. Fat guys have them to. Your mental state has nothing to do with it. Who does the search if the individual self identifies as a furry? The K9 officer?

      1. Agreed all around. If the case focused only on professionalism, it sounds like it may have some merit, although there’s still the problem of it being the word of the inmate vs. the officers like any other accusation. As far as who does what, the lines seem very clear as Alexi stated.

  2. The accusations might be entirely invented or they might be true, there’s no way to know from here and it doesn’t matter at all if this is a transgender person or not. Which person would it be o.k. for a guard to say this to? So I have to as sume facilities that do searches have a way to ensure abuse doesn’t occur, some kind of backup system of witnesses or security cameras. Otherwise guards could abuse prisoners regularly and / or prisoners could make false accusations regularly. So, check that system. If they weren’t following it, that’s evidence of probable guilt. If they were and it shows no such co mments, this should go away. Maybe someone here knows what these systems are.

    1. Security cameras would never be authorized in a search area. Can you imagine if a disgruntled staff member leaked out the private videos of searches being conducted. Talk about lawsuits.

      1. I’m sure that’s a problem, but there has to be some kind of verification process, however imperfect. The situation is way too prone to abuse. Hopefully someone here will know more than I do.

    2. I believe most of them depend on there being multiple people involved in the search, to corroborate each other’s stories. Of course, if they have to switch complete search crews part way through, it makes the whole procedure more difficult.

  3. Why not allow a female guard in the room while male guards were doing this search? It may not have solved the problem, but it is certainly likely.

    1. My as sumption is that they are trying to navigate a situation so that the accused is not deprived of his or her rights but also a man arrested can’t make a false claim of being transgender with nothing to indicate this has been the case simply in order to have a woman do the search, or to have a woman present for the search. Women deputies have the right not to be forced into exposure situations, also. At the same time, as a woman I would not want a man to search me even if a woman were present. And add to this that there’s reason to believe some folks who are transgender may have their situation complicated due to childhood abuse or as sault, so the situation of a man searching them can feel connected to those crimes. I’m sure it’s very hard to figure out. Law enforcement can’t allow drugs or weapons to enter a facility. I wonder, is it not possible to use the same tech that we use for boarding airplanes and avoid the searches altogether? I just don’t know.

      1. I suspect you’re correct all the way. There is no easy way to accomplish something that would satisfy everyone, so they’re doing the best they can, especially with limited resources.

  4. Everything the left touches, they ruin. The left hates law and order and love the alphabet gang. We are living in bazaaro world where the majority is told they must pander to the whims of a tiny majority. WAKE UP!

      1. No, I don’t. But your crowd IS focused on turning everything political, as is evident by the left’s nonstop division based on skin color, s e x u a l orientation, religion, nationality and the list goes on and on.

  5. I hope she sues and wins big time. And to the person that keeps crying about the left over everything. I see mental illness runs in your family.

    1. Your guess is incorrect. No mental illness in my family. And, HE will not win “big” either. Keep living in your fantasy world. #RESIST

  6. This is a whole lot easier when you just recognize that this guy is a man. It matters not that you mutilate and alter your body. Cutting off your junk and growing t!ts does not make you a woman. Just because he wants to be searched by a female deputy does not mean a female deputy wants to see his pen!s.

  7. Though it would be more costly, medical professionals should be doing these visual body cavity searches for all inmates. Medical professionals deal with everyone already, regardless of gender.

    1. You sure about that? From what the article says, it sounds like this person has male genitalia below the waste, hence HE was searched by a male deputy. That is NOT a “cross gender” search as his attorney would want you to believe. It doesn’t matter what gender he wants to think he is, he is still a male, even if he has breasts now, and a search by a male deputy is appropriate.

  8. Sounds like they did it right. He is not a total she. So it would make sense in this case to have a female check the upper parts and a male to check the lower parts. Especially since it is a man it could of been argued afterward that having a female check the lower parts was humiliating and not appropriate. The female officers do not need to be exposed to that.
    Also what part of the 14th amendment was violated? There was no gender discrimination. She/he was given fair treatment given the circ umstances. They would have to prove that they treated him/her differently than any other trans person.
    What this sounds like is a desperate attempt to get money. I highly doubt his/her story is legit. I bet a lot of parts are made up so it sounds worse than what it was just to gain attention and try to get better footing legally.

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