A woman holds onto the bars of her prison cell while wearing an orange jumpsuit.
Photo: Shutterstock

A 27-year-old Black trans woman has filed a federal lawsuit against Pennsylvania’s Dauphin County Prison (DCP) alleging she suffered terrible abuse at the hands of multiple prison officers and inmates while she was housed in a dorm with men.

Ms. Henderson, as she is named in the suit, was reportedly placed in an open dorm room with about 50 men after being charged with a minor offense in October 2020.

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Henderson claims an officer threatened her and called her an anti-LGBTQ slur after she ran away from an inmate who was attempting to assault her.

“Look, faggot, do not disrupt my pod,” the lawsuit quotes him as saying. “Shut your fucking mouth or I’ll spray you.”

Henderson’s lawyers say the moment was caught on video.

After that officer threatened Henderson, the lawsuit says another one came over and maced her, dragged her to the ground, and pulled out her hair.

Henderson told the officers she couldn’t breathe, and they allegedly told her to shut up and that she deserved it while one of them held her down against the concrete by shoving his foot into her back.

The lawsuit says officers then placed her in a suicide watch cell with a broken toilet that was covered in feces. She was allegedly given no water and just a mat to sleep on.

When she was released on bond later that week, a doctor diagnosed her with a concussion.

Henderson’s lawyer, Alexandria Lappas, told the Washington Blade, they “are hopeful that Dauphin County, the proud home of Pennsylvania’s capitol, will humbly learn from the nightmare Ms. Henderson experienced while at DCP and institute meaningful and lasting changes to their policies and procedures so that no one else must suffer the horrible trauma and abuse she did.”

But in a response to Henderson’s complaint, it appears DCP is prepared to deny it all.

“After reasonable investigation, Answering Defendants are without sufficient knowledge or information to form a belief as to the truthfulness of the averments,” the response stated.

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