COBB COUNTY, Ga. — A woman is suing the Cobb County Sheriff and representatives from Cobb County Jail after she claimed she was mistreated for being transgender.
Sierra Castle was arrested on March 21, 2018 after she stopped at a drive-thru fast food restaurant and the wind blew open the door to a garbage can, which collided with her vehicle. She called Cobb County Police to make a report and when the officer ran her license through the Georgia Crime Information Computer, he found a bench warrant out for her arrest.
According to the lawsuit, the warrant was issued out of DeKalb County for failing to appear or pay a $15 fine for a seatbelt violation – something she told 11Alive’s Elwyn Lopez that she forgot about.
Castle was arrested for the outstanding warrant and told officers she was a transgender female. She claims she was booked as a female but was patted down by a male officer – and she said he made a point to refer to her as, “Mr. Castle.”
“I have came so far in my journey as a transwoman, from post-op to pre-op, to being passable and legally identifying as a female, and to have that all taken away from me was unreal,” Castle said. “I couldn’t believe it was happening.”
Castle legally changed her gender in 2015 after undergoing surgery and hormone treatment. Her drivers license and other government records indicate she is female.
In the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court, Castle claimed she was wearing a dress, earrings and a hair tie at the time of her arrest – indications that she is a woman. She also claimed that a male officer not only patted her down using his hands, but also made her sit in an area for male detainees at Cobb County Jail. A corrections officer reportedly said that she “would be considered male while in jail.” She also said the detention officer referred to her as “he” while in custody.
Castle also claims that a female staffer told her to sit in a pink chair on the side of the room designated for women, but another officer interrupted her, stating, “No, Mister Castle sits in the blue chairs” and she was forced to sit with the men in a holding cell intended for male detainees. In the lawsuit, she claimed some jail detainees made “sexually degrading and threatening comments” toward her. In the lawsuit, she claimed that male inmates peered into her cell when walking by.
She also claims that officers did not respond to her when she pressed a buzzer for help to get necessary medication and a male detention officer said, “didn’t you tell the officers you’re transgender?” The alleged comment was made in front of several male inmates, who responded with jeers and asked her to “flash them,” according to the lawsuit.
“It was just so much stuff that happened, I couldn’t believe it all happened in one night, but it did,” she said.
Cobb County Jail records indicate that Castle was booked as a female inmate. She said that designation was later changed to male, then back to female. She was released the next day – after her $15 fine was paid.
Cobb County Jail officials said they could not comment on pending litigation. Questions regarding policies about male and female inmates have not been answered.