MIAMI – A woman is suing employees at a Florida jail after she was booked into an all-male holding cell because they thought she was transgender, according to a report from the Miami Herald.
Fior Pichardo de Veloz, 55, is an attorney and local elected official in the Dominican Republic. She had come to Miami in 2013 to witness the birth of her grandchild, but was taken into custody at the airport on an old drug charge that she didn't know was outstanding, the paper reports.
Pichardo was arrested on November 4, 2013. The arresting officer listed her gender as female, according to the report.
Pichardo was transported to the Turner Guilford Knight Correctional Center where she underwent a routine medical checkup due to her history of high blood pressure. At this point, a nurse asked if she was a man because her file noted she was taking hormone pills, the report said.
The nurse said that sometimes “male inmates take hormone pills to enhance their breasts.” However, Pichardo was taking the pills to help with symptoms of menopause, according to the paper. The nurse added a note to Pichardo's file saying, "Transgender, male parts, female tendencies.”
A doctor reclassified Pichardo as a man without ever doing a physical examination, and she was transferred to the Metro West Detention Center, an all-male jail, the paper said. When Pichardo insisted to an officer that she was a woman, the officer reportedly replied, "You are a woman. Good luck if you’re alive tomorrow."
Pichardo was then placed in a large holding cell surrounded by 40 men who reportedly laughed and yelled out, "Mami! Mami!" She was so afraid to use the toilet that she urinated on herself, according to the report.
Jailers realized the mistake and removed Pichardo from the holding cell only after her family demanded to know why she was moved. She was then taken back to Turner Guilford Knight, the paper said.
Pichardo later sued Miami-Dade County and jail staff for "cruel and unusual punishment," but the case was thrown out by a judge who said the jailers were protected from trial for negligence.
However, a federal appeals court reinstated the lawsuit on November 21, 2018.
“Every reasonable prison officer and medical personnel would have known that wrongfully misclassifying a biological female as a male inmate and placing that female in the male population of a detention facility was unlawful,” Judge Frank Hull wrote in the unanimous opinion.