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Transgender woman recalls beating in San Diego County jail

Posted at 8:07 PM, Jul 19, 2023
and last updated 2023-07-20 15:05:49-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — It's been almost three years since Kristina Frost found herself inside a downtown San Diego jail.

But her memories of the hours locked up are as vivid as the day she was booked and placed in a holding cell.

“Just because someone is different than you, doesn’t mean you're not human,” Frost said.

In November 2020, Frost, a transgender woman, was arrested for a misdemeanor DUI offense and taken to San Diego Central Jail. She was then placed in the main intake area for men in San Diego County.

"They knew all the way what I was and that my license said ‘female,’ and I went through the booking process,” Frost said.

Frost said she was initially placed in a holding cell by herself and then against her wishes moved to a cell with three men.

"I was upstairs in a cell and all of a sudden a sheriff came and yanked me out of there and started to put me in a cell with three men,” Frost said.

Frost said she told deputies she was scared and asked them to keep her in the single cell but was told no.

She says she tried to stay out of sight in a corner and get some sleep but was violently woken up.

"These bangs against my head that were just incredible,” she said. “I felt like I was hit with an iron frying pan."

According to a lawsuit Frost filed against the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department and several employees, she suffered two jaw fractures.

“Her injuries have so far required two separate operations to place and remove hardware from her jaw, including a long period of her mouth being wired shut,” the lawsuit states.

Frost said bloodied and with broken bones she was put back in a cell by herself and left there for hours.

"Nobody so much as even asked, you know, was I OK,” she said. “Yeah, so, that's the worst part of it. The broken jaw was one thing, but the inhumanity was another, and that's what bothered me the most."

Frost’s attorneys say the Sheriff's Department violated her civil rights.

"The move was against their policy, and we think that's directly what led to Ms. Frost being injured in this case,” said attorney Trenton Lamere.

The County's Citizens’ Law Enforcement Review Board (CLERB) also took issue with Frost being placed in a cell with three men.

The board sustained a complaint about the incident writing, “Despite the lack of specific policies or procedures prohibiting the placement of transgender incarcerated persons with opposing cisgender incarcerated persons, placing a transgender female in a cell with three cisgender men is not consistent with providing a ‘secure, safe and humane custody’ of transgender persons, thus in violation of SDSD DSB R.13. It can also be considered mistreatment, thus in violation of SDSD P&P 2.48, titled, ‘Treatment of Persons in Custody,’ which prohibits mistreatment of persons in custody. The evidence supports the allegation, and the act or conduct was not justified.”

"We believed that the Sheriff's Department had not provided a safe secure and human custodial setting for a transgender female incarcerated person,” said CLERB Executive Officer Paul Parker.

Along with sustaining the complaint, the board recommended the Sheriff's Department change the wording regarding the booking process.

According to board documents they recommended, “The San Diego Sheriff Department (SDSD) revise Patrol Procedures Manual Policy 25 Prisoner Transportation (and any other associated policies), as it pertains to Subsection C, Deputy’s Responsibilities at Detention Facility to mandate that an arrestee shall be taken to a facility that coincides with the arrestee's gender identity. As such, an arrestee who identifies as being female shall be taken to Las Colinas Detention Re-Entry Facility or Vista Detention Facility, and an arrestee who identifies as being male shall be taken to San Diego Central Jail, or Vista Detention Facility. If the arrestee identifies as non-binary, the arresting officer shall inquire as to whether the arrestee would prefer to be booked into a male or female facility and transport accordingly.”

"The Sheriff's Department said because they are looking at things on a case-by-case basis when transgender folks are booked that our recommendations to take someone and place them in a facility that coincides with their gender identity is not feasible and is not something they'd be willing to do because they already believe they are taking the appropriate steps,” Parker said.

The Sheriff's Department says they've had a policy regarding the housing of transgender, intersex and non-binary incarcerated persons since November of 2018.

In a statement to Team 10, a spokesperson wrote in part, “The Department's current policy was updated in March of 2022 which takes into consideration the incarcerated person’s gender identity, gender search preferences, housing preference and their own views with respect to their safety as well. Any individual booked into our jail who identifies as transgender, intersex and/ or non-binary is immediately interviewed by the Classification Unit to determine the housing situation best for the individual. The Sheriff's Department will always continue to evaluate its policies to enhance the safety and security of all incarcerated individuals entrusted into our detention facilities.”

Frost’s attorneys question whether that policy is working.

"The policy wasn't good enough for Kristina and it’s not going to be good enough going forward,” said attorney Brody McBride.

Frost says she hopes there's a bigger change, saying for her, even worse than the broken bones was how deputies treated her.

Frost settled her lawsuit with the County of San Diego.

The Sheriff's Department couldn’t comment on the settlement.