A transgender woman in Springfield, Massachusetts is suing Hampden County Sheriff Nick Cocchi for $100,000 after she claims she was harassed, extorted, and raped while an inmate at the Ludlow jail in 2016.
Jennifer E. Picknelly is filling the lawsuit from the Hampshire County Jail after requesting a transfer but was originally filed in Hampden Superior Court arguing that corrections officers fell short of protecting her while she was tormented by Latin Kings gang members, other inmates, and even staff.
The complaint alleges she was called a "faggot" and a "shim" but was the case was originally dropped against the Hampshire County sheriff department. Lawyers for Sheriff Cocchi say in court filings that no staff abused Picknelly or called her names and the department did its best to protect her.
Picknelly was born James R. Kelly before legally changing her name in 2015. She was originally jailed after being sentenced to two years for a probation violation. Picknelly is representing herself and has filed all her own pleadings. While standing before the judge she said, "It's not easy to find a lawyer who is willing to sue a county sheriff."
Sheriff Cocchi and the sheriff's department's general counsel, Theresa Finnegan, say that Picknelly's claims are not true. Finnegan said the sheriff's office made voluntary and progressive accommodations for Picknelly, including affording her a single cell, private shower time, access to women's commissary items such as cosmetics and bras plus periodic transfers for her own safety and comfort.
The sheriff said, "We never moved her somewhere and said like it or lump it. I feel very comfortable with how we've treated Jennifer and tried to be sensitive to her needs."
In another lawsuit unrelated to Picknelly's, a 53-year-old transgender woman sued Massachusetts Department of Corrections for being housed in a male prison. The woman said she was harassed by inmates and staff and has been strip-searched by male guards.
A Boston federal Judge Mark Wolf ruled in 2012 that a transgender state prison inmate previously named Robert Kosliek and convicted of killing his wife in 1990, should be allowed to have a gender reassignment surgery on the taxpayer's dime but that ruling was overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court a few years later.
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