In what gender identity advocates, local news media and the inmate’s lawyer are lauding as a victory for civil rights, a man has been imprisoned in a women’s facility for the first time in Massachusetts history.
The 54-year-old inmate, whose name was not disclosed, has been receiving feminizing hormones for nearly 40 years.
Sentenced in October 2016 to three to four years on the drug charge of possession of a Class A narcotic with intent to distribute, he was placed in MCI-Norfolk men’s prison in a single-cell without a roommate. Prison officials told the convict they would not move him to a women’s facility until he had genital surgery.
The Massachusetts Department of Corrections (DOC) provided the inmate with feminizing hormones, counseling sessions and facial hair removal for his gender dysphoria. Gender dysphoria is a psychologically diagnosable condition that causes a person to disbelieve that they are actually their biological sex.
In November 2017, GLAD, an organization of legal advocates and defenders focused on the GLBTQ community, filed a federal lawsuit against the Massachusetts DOC on the inmate’s behalf. The lawsuit claimed the state of Massachusetts had violated the inmate’s rights under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). His sense of gender identity gave him the right under the ADA to be imprisoned with women and strip-searched by female corrections officers, the lawsuit argued.
The inmate claimed that other male inmates had leered at his body and catcalled him, and that being strip-searched by male guards upset him. Treating him differently than women due to the fact that he has a penis but is transgender violated his constitutional right to equal protection, according to the lawsuit.
Massachusetts countered with a motion to dismiss the case, pointing out that the ADA explicitly excludes transgender persons from protection. The state held that the inmate had not been “excluded from or denied a benefit or service by reason of her gender dysphoria,” and the Massachusetts DOC had provided reasonable accommodations for treatment of his gender dysphoria. “There may be problems with other inmates” in a women’s prison, the state argued. A judge denied the state’s motion.
Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker passed a law in April 2018 requiring inmates be placed in jails and prisons in accordance with their gender identity beliefs, be provided with clothing and accessories matching this identity, and be addressed by prison guards with the pronouns that match their gender identity beliefs.
In accordance with the state law, the inmate has been transferred to MCI-Framingham, the state women’s prison.
The move occurred in September 2018, but was only disclosed in January 2019. The inmate is expected to be released from prison in June 2019.
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The Boston Globe
The Massachusetts Department of Correction, under pressure from a federal lawsuit, said it has for the first time moved a transgender inmate from a men’s prison to a women’s prison. The prisoner’s lawyer, Jennifer L. Levi, said she believes the transfer also marks the first time a transgender prisoner in the United States has been moved to a prison that corresponds to her gender identity.
Massachusetts prisons officials have for the first time moved a transgender inmate from a men’s prison to a women’s prison.
BOSTON (Reuters) – Massachusetts on Friday asked a federal judge to dismiss a lawsuit filed by a transgender woman who claimed the state is violating her rights by housing her in a men’s prison while she serves a three- to four-year sentence for a drug charge.