Ashley Del Valle, 38, decided to take a vacation from her home in Queens, New York to sunny Savannah, GA.
Apparently that was her first mistake.
Del Valle has been living as a woman for 20 year and had her name legally changed in 2002. She and her cousin decided a trip to Savannah would be fun. They were wrong.
On Saturday Night, April 6, Ashley chose a sheer blouse to wear on their nightlife adventure for that day. Mistake number two.
Del Valle, who appeared on an episode of TLC's "NY Ink," said she and her cousin were club hopping and hit popular gay club Club One as well as other clubs before stopping in Ellis Square to decide where to go to eat.
She said many people recognized her from the TV show and she was posing for pictures with tourists.
Early that morning (about 1am) she was arrested for indecent exposure by a Savannah Chatham Metro Police officer. The police report claims that her breasts were exposed. She disputed the arrest, which earned her a second charge of disorderly conduct.
She was then taken to the jail, where a she was examined by a nurse, who discovered she was still "technically male." So she was placed in a holding cell in the men's portion of the jail. For two days she was referred to as "a thing" and otherwise harassed.
I felt like I just wasn't being treated like a human being.
Chief Deputy Roy Harris says it would have been inappropriate to put her in the women's dorm…even though she was initially arrested for what is not illegal for a male to do: display nipples.
First off, Ashley is still a man. I think he’s had some surgery, breast implants. But technically he is still a male which poses a problem. We do have a policy in place. Typically we put them in isolation. We do take particular caution with inmates such as this. We’re a nationally accredited jail and have a policy for this.
Note the continuing disrespect.
Unfortunately, either Del Valle is a man, which negates the indecency charge, or she is a woman, at which point she was deliberately put into a male cell in order to demean her. According to Del Valle, deputies referred to her as a “thing”, “brotha,” and “nigga” and the male inmates harassed her. She stated that “They didn’t know where to put me. The young men there were out of control. They kept beating on my cell. It was pure torture. [...] I felt like I just wasn’t being treated like a human being.
On the third day of her incarceration she was moved out of the holding area because the space was needed for other inmates. She was placed in a cell surrounded by men in different cells…one person per cell, apparently.
They were banging on walls, calling me names and I was afraid, I was afraid for my life.
Harris is okay with that, saying only that there was no chance that Del Valle could have been harmed.
Unfortunately, when you classify somebody into the jail, that's what you have to go by.
On day four Del Valle was moved to an isolation cell. Harris says that there were previously none available.
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.
Del Valle's family finally managed to raise the $3500 bail needed to free her. Del Valle's safety was completely not a concern of the Savannah police.
Though Del Valle was kept in a private cell, the fact that she was still surrounded by men still made her vulnerable to harassment. An isolation cell can also be a different form of torture, depriving an individual of any social contact. Whatever transgender policy the jail supposedly has, misgendering her and endangering her in such ways did not prioritize her safety nor convey even the most basic respect for her identity.
--Zack Ford, Think Progress