Transgender inmate makes bail, awaits extradition
A 22-year-old inmate who says her gender identification landed her in the Polk County Jail has posted $2,000 bail raised by donations from strangers.
Meagan Taylor, whose legal name is Derez Flowers, signed an extradition waiver allowing authorities to transport her back to Illinois, where she could face additional fines of about $1,700. But an online fundraising effort in the wake of a Des Moines Register column Friday might also cover Flowers’ fines in Illinois.
The Rev. Megan Rohrer of The Welcome Ministry in San Francisco helped raise the money.
Taylor’s July 13 arrest has generated protests locally against the West Des Moines Drury Inn, where Taylor was arrested. Taylor told The Register she was visiting Des Moines with the friend, who is also transgender, and they were staying at the inn when she noticed the staff “acting really funny” around them. Then police showed up at their hotel room.
Police arrested Taylor after they said she gave a fake name and found prescription drugs in an unmarked bottle.
There also was a warrant from Illinois for an unpaid $500 fine related to a 2010 credit card fraud case, which had snowballed to $1,713.
A smiling Taylor, interviewed in her cell Tuesday after signing the extradition waiver, said she was happy with the outpouring of support.
“I was crying when she (Rohrer) said, ‘We’ve raised over $4,000 for you,’ ” she said.
She said she also was grateful to Polk County Jail officials and Sheriff Bill McCarthy, who “had a lot to do with getting my story out there.”
McCarthy had reached out to the Register about trying to do right by the transgender inmate on issues such as housing and frisking. Taylor has been housed in the jail’s medical unit in a private room with a hospital bed, a TV and telephone access.
Jail officials said Taylor had opted for protective custody, a voluntary request to keep a detainee separate from the general population. But in an earlier interview, Taylor, who is training to be a beautician, had said she didn’t like being isolated from other inmates.
Tuesday morning, she said the officers had been very supportive of her, allowing her to see guests she didn’t know who wanted to help. Assaults against transgender inmates are high in jails, and Iowa law requires male inmates to be housed with other men and women with women.
Nonetheless, some activist organizations have faulted the jail, saying Taylor was being kept in isolation. McCarthy and other county officials met Monday with Donna Red Wing, who heads the LGBT rights organization One Iowa, to clear up such concerns.
“I felt they were being as respectful as I could imagine,” said Red Wing after the meeting. “They were really intentional about that.”
She said the West Des Moines police may have had no choice but to arrest Taylor once they learned of the Illinois warrant. But the Drury Inn “made a bigoted move by calling police,” she said.
The inn has not returned several calls for comment.
West Des Moines Police charged Taylor with possession of prescription drugs without a prescription and malicious prosecution.
The police officer’s narrative said Taylor had “identified herself with a Missouri ID as Sylvester Anderson,” but Taylor said she didn’t present any ID, just said a fake name because she was scared. That still generated the malicious prosecution charge, according to West Des Moines Police spokesman Sgt. Brent Kock.
Taylor said the unmarked bottle of pills were part of her hormone treatments, and she has a prescription.
“If she does have a prescription, that can be taken care of through the court system,” Kock said.
Taylor is due back in Polk County Court Aug. 26 on the Iowa charges.
Under the law, Illinois authorities have 10 days to pick her up or Iowa can release her, said Sgt. Brandon Bracelin, sheriff’s office spokesman. However, with her Illinois fines being paid Tuesday, Taylor hoped that could be avoided.
The donated money had been wired to Taylor’s aunt in Illinois, who Taylor said was paying the fine.