Transgender Inmate Reaches $170,000 Settlement with Colorado Department of Corrections

Courtesy Lindsay Saunders-Velez via AP
This 2018 photo provided by inmate Lindsay Saunders-Velez shows her, at left, with mentor Meghan Baker at the Colorado Territorial Correctional Facility in Cañon City, Colo.

The Colorado Attorney General’s Office reached a settlement with an incarcerated transgender woman who sued the Department of Corrections last year after she said she was raped in a men’s prison in Cañon City. 

Lindsay Saunders-Velez will be awarded $170,000, with $10,000 set aside specifically for medical expenses, upon her expected release in November. The state does not assume fault or liability as a result of the settlement. 

The Department of Corrections is not required to implement changes, but it “has already implemented progressive policies aimed at the fair and dignified treatment of all transgender offenders,” said Phil Weiser, the Colorado attorney general. 

Last year, Saunders-Velez was placed in a “punishment pod” for a disciplinary infraction. She and her lawyers asked a judge not to send her to the pod, claiming she would end up with inmates who had tormented her. The judge denied the request, citing Saunders-Velez’s attorney’s inability to prove imminent risk. 

Saunders-Velez was allegedly raped after being placed in the pod. She filed a lawsuit in July 2018 saying she has been threatened, harassed and assaulted since entering Colorado's prison system for violating her plea deal in a felony menacing case. She called the state's prisons "discriminatory and dangerous" for transgender offenders.

Last year, her attorney Paula Greisen said Saunders-Velez’s case illustrates the threats and abuse transgender people face in prisons around the U.S.

"This issue is not going to go away," she said. "We're going to fight it until these individuals are treated with the respect they deserve."