Transgender Inmate Alleges Abuse at San Fracisco County Jail
Files civil rights lawsuit in superior court
[SAN FRANCISCO, CA] - The San Francisco Sheriff's Department has fired a jailer after a former inmate filed a civil lawsuit accusing the deputy of sexual assault, the plaintiff's attorney said Monday.
The former inmate, Tumeka Godwin, is a male-to-female transgender. She alleges that the male sheriff's deputy assaulted her over a period of several months last fall in a San Francisco lockup next door to the Hall of Justice in the South of Market area.
Godwin's attorney, Jana Carter, said the legal counsel for the Sheriff's Department had told her last week that the deputy had been dismissed.
Sheriff Michael Hennessey and his chief of staff, Eileen Hirst, declined to comment on the case Monday, citing protections of the confidentiality of personnel matters. They would neither confirm nor deny that a deputy had been terminated.
Godwin filed a complaint in October 2001 with the city, which dismissed it, Carter said. Godwin then filed a civil rights lawsuit in Superior Court last month.
On several occasions, Carter said, the deputy ordered Godwin to "strip naked, masturbate, show him her body and dance for his arousal."
Godwin is a transsexual who has undergone hormone treatment but not surgery for the transition from male to female. Carter said her client identified as a woman.
The suit seeks unspecified damages and a court order requiring the Sheriff's Department to properly train and supervise deputies who deal with transgender inmates.
Carter said the deputy had been a supervisor in the "B pod" housing unit at Jail No. 8. The unit houses transgender inmates and others whose safety would be at risk in the general population. Godwin is now serving a sentence in state prison for receiving stolen property, Carter said.
The treatment of transgender inmates has been a concern to community activists and members of police watchdog groups, who say abuse against transgender people by law enforcement personnel is rampant. A recent report by a transgender task force commissioned by the Board of Supervisors says the problem is real and needs to be addressed.
The Sheriff's and Police departments have implemented sensitivity training for their employees. Hennessey said Monday that transgender inmates are provided with separate, protected housing and "receive the same treatment as everyone else."