Transgender Woman Complains About Treatment in Jail - Local news, weather, sports Savannah | WSAV On Your Side

Transgender Woman Raises Jail Concerns

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Ashley Del Valle Ashley Del Valle
SAVANNAH, GA -

A transgender woman is calling attention to her experience in the Chatham County Jail after being confined there for four nights. She says at times she was scared to death.

While the county's chief deputy says all procedures in dealing with transgender individuals were followed, 38 year old Ashley Del Valle offers her own perspective. "I felt like I was being punished for who I was," she told us.

Del Valle has been living as a woman for 20 years and legally changed her name in 2002. She is from Queens but came to Savannah with her cousin recently for a vacation. Early Sunday morning she was arrested by Savannah Chatham Metro Police for indecent exposure. A police report says her breasts were exposed. Del Valle disputes the claim. She says she was just wearing a sheer top and was having a great time one second and the next thing she knew she was being arrested. The police report also charges her with disorderly conduct for reportedly fighting with a police officer.

She says after being taken to the jail, the nurse examined her and after realizing she still has male genitalia, she was put in a holding cell. She spent two days there. She told us some jail personnel were rude and referred to her as "a thing".

"I felt like I just wasn't being treated like a human being," she told us.

Chief Deputy Roy Harris says the jail has procedures on dealing with transgender individuals and by law could "not have put her in the women's dorm." Harris says Del Valle was confined in the holding area for two days alone in a cell with restroom facilities.   He says she was supervised. He says by Day three, she had to be moved from the holding area because other inmates were being booked.

It was at that time that she went to Cell Block 5, which Harris described as a "unique general population area." Del Valle says she was in a cell surrounded by men in cells. "They were banging on walls, calling me names and I was afraid, I was afraid for my life," she told us.

However, Harris said the cell was locked at all times and there was no chance that Del Valle could have been harmed. He believes all procedures were followed. "Unfortunately, when you classify somebody into the jail, that's what you have to go by," said Harris, referring to Del Valle's anatomical parts. "However, we do have policies for that. We are a nationally accredited jail which requires us to have policies for almost every situation."

Harris says on Day four, Del Valle was moved to an isolation cell. He says initially, she had been placed in the holding cell because no isolation cells were available. He also told us that he has received no formal complaint from Del Valle but that if he does, her complaint will be investigated.

Del Valle told us that even on the last day, the isolation cell was in an area where men were also housed in cells. She said much of her time at the facility she was frightened and nervous. She also believes the charges against her are wrong and "should have never happened in the first place." Del Valle told us she may be seeking legal action.

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