Department of Justice rules Utah prison discriminated against a trans inmate

Author: Mira Lazine

On Tuesday, the Department of Justice (DOJ) ruled that the Utah Department of Corrections (UDOC) is in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act for failing to accommodate a transgender woman housed in one of its prisons.

After 15 months of being deprived of gender-affirming care, the woman was driven to harm herself, which is common for those living with gender dysphoria due to its inherent psychological distress.

The DOJ released a letter this week detailing the specific issues that arose within the prison.

“Complainant’s access to medically necessary care for her disability was unnecessarily delayed due to UDOC’s biased and prolonged approval process. It took UDOC nine months to provide Complainant with a diagnostic assessment for gender dysphoria and another six months to prescribe her hormone therapy despite her submitting repeated follow up requests and grievances,” the DOJ’s letter states.

The letter further details that the woman’s physician, a member of the corrections department’s committee for gender dysphoria, tried to talk her out of pursuing hormone therapy. After she persisted in her desire, she was repeatedly denied access to either hormones or accommodations. The inmate even filled out ADA request forms, but those did not change the outcome.

“By not allowing me this opportunity to live my life as a woman, who I believe I am … the prison is causing me such mental stress,” the woman said in an ADA complaint.

The corrections department’s gender dysphoria committee was further described by the DOJ’s as a “gatekeeper for care.”

“The gender dysphoria committee includes both medical and non-medical staff even though its only function is to handle requests for medical care,” the department’s letter read. “During Complainant’s incarceration, the committee included members who demonstrated overt bias against the individuals seeking care and expressed reluctance to prescribe medically appropriate treatment, including hormone therapy, for gender dysphoria.”

The inmate’s psychological distress was further compounded by the fact that she was housed in a male prison, the letter details. She was denied requests to be searched by female prison guards, citing discomfort being searched by men. The DOJ letter further revealed that inmates were subject to genital searches to determine what prison they were placed in.

Brian Redd, executive director of the Utah Department of Corrections, said in a statement, “We have been working to address this complex issue, and were blindsided by today’s public announcement from the Department of Justice.”

“We have also taken steps on our own, and as a state, to address the needs of inmates while maintaining the highest safety standards,” Redd further clarified. “We fundamentally disagree with the DOJ on key issues, and are disappointed with their approach.”

The DOJ letter supplied corrective measures for UDOC, including revitalizing its policies to be more in line with the standards of care for gender dysphoria and training for employees on ADA requirements.

The corrective measures also state that UDOC should pay damages to the transgender inmate, although specifics on how much were not revealed. The letter gives UDOC 14 days to reach out to the DOJ to work on solutions.

The DOJ concluded by saying the department hopes to work with UDOC “to resolve this matter cooperatively through a court-enforceable consent decree that brings UDOC into compliance with the ADA. If we are unable to reach such a resolution, the Attorney General may initiate a lawsuit”

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Actual Story on LGBTQ Nation
Author: Mira Lazine

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