Justice Department Sues Utah Over Transgender Inmate’s Discrimination Case

Justice Department Sues Utah Over Transgender Inmate’s Discrimination Case

Just three weeks after the Justice Department disclosed that an investigation into the Utah Department of Corrections revealed that a transgender inmate was discriminated against by prison authorities, the department filed a lawsuit against the state on Tuesday.

According to a prepared statement, the US Justice Department accuses Utah and its correctional department of violating the Americans with Disabilities Act “against an incarcerated transgender woman based on her disability, gender dysphoria.”

“The department’s complaint alleges that (the Utah Department of Corrections) failed to provide the complainant equal access to health care services after she repeatedly requested hormone therapy, and also failed to make reasonable modifications to its policies and practices to treat her gender dysphoria,” according to the U.S. government’s allegations.

Corrections administrators noted on Tuesday that “because it is pending litigation, we have no additional comment at this time,” referring to their previous statement.

When the Justice Department announced the findings of its investigation three weeks ago, Brian Redd, executive director of the Utah Department of Corrections, responded by saying, “We have been working to address this complex issue, and were caught off guard by today’s public announcement from the Department of Justice.” We have also taken initiatives, both individually and as a state, to meet the requirements of convicts while maintaining the greatest safety standards. We firmly disagree with the DOJ on critical topics and are dismayed by their approach.”

In July 2021, a transgender woman with gender dysphoria was detained at Utah State Prison. According to the lawsuit, her condition is classified as a disability “because her gender dysphoria is a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of her major life activities.”

According to the lawsuit, medical records from the prison in September 2021 show that the offender has “gender identity disorder issues” and is seeking treatment, including hormone therapy.

According to the lawsuit, nine months after entering prison and making several requests for hormone therapy, the woman received a “diagnostic evaluation for gender dysphoria by a contract psychologist.”

Still, she did not receive hormone medication until January 2023, “17 months after she initially requested that treatment and more than six months after she was diagnosed with gender dysphoria,” according to the lawsuit. And when the state started therapy, “it did not do so safely or effectively.”

“(Her) access to care for her gender dysphoria was contingent on a biased and unnecessarily prolonged approval process,” according to the complaint.

In addition to hormone therapy, the woman “sought reasonable modifications (to prison policies) including to be permitted to purchase female clothing and personal items in the commissary, to modify pat search policies, and to individually assess her housing requests to avoid discrimination on the basis of gender dysphoria,” according to the lawsuit, which claims the corrections department “denied virtually all of (her) American with Disabilities requests.”

The woman’s gender dysphoria intensified while she was in prison, according to the lawsuit, and “in May 2023, (she) performed dangerous self-surgery and removed her own testicles, resulting in hospitalization and additional surgery.”

In addition to monetary damages for the lady, the complaint requests that the Utah Department of Corrections improve its policies and procedures and offer greater staff training.

“People with gender dysphoria, including those in jails and prisons, are protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act and have equal access to medical care as anyone else with a disability,” assistant attorney general Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division said in a prepared statement. “Delays or refusals to provide medical treatment for people with gender dysphoria can cause irreparable harm, including debilitating distress, depression, attempts at self-treatment and even death by suicide.”

Three weeks ago, in an open letter, the Justice Department stated that it hoped to collaborate with the corrections department “to resolve this matter cooperatively through a court-enforceable consent decree that brings (the corrections department) into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.” If we are unable to achieve a resolution, the attorney general may file a lawsuit.”

Information on the woman, such as her age, why she was incarcerated, and her current state, was not immediately available.

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