PITTSBURGH — Today, the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania and the law firm O’Brien Coleman & Wright announced a settlement between Allegheny County and Jules Williams, bringing to a close Ms. Williams’ federal civil rights lawsuit over sexual assault she suffered at the Allegheny County Jail in 2015. In the settlement, Allegheny County agreed to pay $300,000 in damages to Ms. Williams, who is a transgender woman.
Although corrections officers knew that Ms. Williams identified as a woman, they housed her with a man who had repeatedly been charged and convicted for violent sexual offenses man for four days, and, when the man repeatedly assaulted her, they ignored Ms. Williams’ pleas for help.
“We are pleased that Allegheny County agreed to compensate Ms. Williams for the harm she suffered at the jail and are hopeful that policies adopted since Ms. Williams’ ordeal will protect other vulnerable individuals, including transgender people, incarcerated at the jail,” said Sara Rose, deputy legal director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania.
Since 2012, federal law has required jails to conduct an individualized assessment of transgender people at the outset of their incarceration to determine where they should be housed. But the Allegheny County Jail did not have any policies in place in 2015 requiring such assessments.
“No amount of money can undo the trauma suffered by Ms. Williams at Allegheny County Jail, but we hope that this settlement will put jails and prisons across the commonwealth on notice that they have an obligation to protect people in their custody,” said Reggie Shuford, executive director of ACLU of Pennsylvania.
“This settlement gives Ms. Williams much-deserved closure without having to relive her trauma through trial,” said Alec Wright, an attorney with O’Brien Coleman & Wright, who represented Ms. Williams. “Her main goal with this lawsuit was to protect other people from the harm she suffered, and she has achieved that.”
You can find more information about the lawsuit here.