Legal Aid Society


LAS Secures $275K Settlement for Transgender Man Abused in Custody

The Legal Aid Society and Paul Hastings LLP announced a $275,000 settlement for their client in litigation over the abuse he suffered while incarcerated at Bedford Hills Correctional Facility. The court authorized the client to file his lawsuit under the pseudonym John Smith to protect his privacy.

While going through intake at Bedford Hills, Mr. Smith, who is a transgender man, was ordered by DOCCS staff to submit to a genital examination for the purpose of determining his genital status, a practice specifically prohibited by the Prison Rape Elimination Act. When Mr. Smith refused to submit to the examination, the Superintendent ordered that he be placed in solitary confinement for more than a week – a punishment intended to force him to comply with the examination.

After relenting to the demands of DOCCS staff and agreeing to a visual examination in order to escape the deplorable conditions of solitary confinement, Mr. Smith was assaulted and nonconsensually penetrated in the course of the examination, in clear violation of Mr. Smith’s constitutional rights.

“While this settlement will never completely right what I suffered while incarcerated, it will allow me to move forward with my life, and I’m hopeful that it also puts DOCCS on notice that this behavior will never be tolerated,” said Mr. Smith. “I want to thank my legal team at The Legal Aid Society and Paul Hastings for fighting for me and working so hard to hold DOCCS accountable.”

“No New Yorker should endure what Mr. Smith experienced in the custody of DOCCS, but his story is tragically emblematic of the plights facing many incarcerated transgender people throughout the state,” said Erin Beth Harrist, Director of the LGBTQ+ Law and Policy Unit at Legal Aid. “However, with this settlement, we hope that it affords Mr. Smith both some long-awaited justice and much needed closure, and should DOCCS or its employees engage in such a way again, we will hold them responsible for violating the rights of our clients.”