Transgender prisoners have a right to taxpayer-funded hormone therapy and treatments such permanent hair removal, a federal court ruled this week, ordering Missouri to foot the bill.
Under previous policy, Missouri would agree to pay for prisoners who had begun treatments before being incarcerated but wouldn’t pay for inmates who hadn’t yet begun.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Noelle C. Collins of the Eastern District of Missouri said that violated the 8th Amendment’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment by failing to account for transgender prisoners’ needs.
“Given the deprivation of constitutional rights that plaintiff has suffered and will suffer if defendants withhold medically necessary gender dysphoria treatment from her or continue to enforce the freeze-frame policy, the public interest favors entry of such an order,” the judge wrote in a Tuesday ruling.
Jessica Hicklin, a 39-year-old transgender prisoner held in Potosi Correctional Center, an all-male facility, was diagnosed with gender dysphoria in 2015 while incarcerated, but had been denied access to hormone therapy.
She was convicted of first-degree murder of a man in 1995, when she was 16-years-old and known as James. She’s serving a life sentence.
“This is the first court in the country that we know of to rule specifically that ‘freeze-frame policies’ are unconstitutional, but we are hopeful that other courts will see these discriminatory policies as deliberate indifference to incarcerated transgender people’s serious medical needs and follow suit,” said Demoya Gordon, an attorney for Lambda Legal, which represented Ms. Hicklin.
“This final decision makes it unquestionably clear that prisons cannot deny transgender people like me life-saving medical care,” Ms. Hicklin said.
Neither the Missouri Department of Corrections nor Corizon LLC, its contracted healthcare provider, objected to Ms. Hicklin’s requested relief, according to the court order.
As part of the judgment, Ms. Hicklin will be able to access female canteen items, have permanent hair removal and hormone therapy.
The Missouri Department of Corrections did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
A spokesperson for Corizon LLC told KMBC, an ABC-affiliate, the company is “complying with all court orders regarding this case and will continue to do so.”
• Alex Swoyer can be reached at email@example.com.
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