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Transgender woman claims harassment at Suffolk jail in lawsuit

The lawsuit by a New Jersey woman claims she was mistreated by the Suffolk County Correctional Facility and its staff.

A transgender woman who claims she was harassed, molested and denied hormone medication while being detained in the Suffolk jail has filed a federal lawsuit against the county seeking at least $1 million.

Alyssa Giordano, 28, of New Jersey, who began undergoing a transition to a woman in 2013 and legally changed her name and gender to female by January 2015, filed a lawsuit Wednesday that alleges she was housed in a male unit of the jail despite an order from a Suffolk County judge that she be housed with women — and she was “subjected to weeks of mistreatment by the [Suffolk County Correctional Facility] and its staff.”

The lawsuit claims Giordano endured a stressful experience at the jail during her detention from December 2015 to January 2016, including being searched by male officers, mocked, strip-searched in front of male inmates — some of whom groped her — and, in one instance, she was spit on by an officer who hurled anti-gay slurs.

In another instance, it said, her breasts were squeezed by an officer who searched her.

The suit alleged that Suffolk County has a policy, pattern or custom “to treat transgender inmates differently” from non-transgendered inmates, and “to disregard the gender of transgender individuals when making housing placement decisions.”

Suffolk officials could not be reached for comment Wednesday night.

Giordano’s attorney, David Shanies of Manhattan, who is handling another case involving a transgender woman who claims harassment and denial of medication at the Riverhead facility, said Giordano’s treatment was unacceptable.

Shanies, who said he did not recall the charges that landed his client in the jail, said she was denied critical hormone treatments by jail doctors and that the hiatus put her at risk of experiencing gender dysphoria, a stress felt by people whose sex organs differ from the gender they express.

“Every person deserves to be treated with dignity and respect and that does not stop at the jailhouse door,” he said. “Suffolk County has a shameful history in its treatment of transgender inmates and a change is needed.”

Giordano’s lawsuit also seeks punitive damages and an injunction to force county officials to “implement policies and procedures necessary to protect the constitutional rights of transgender inmates.”

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