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Feds update transgender prison guidelines
by Kate Sosin, Windy City Times
2011-10-05

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In a settlement with a transgender inmate who sued for the right to transition behind bars, the Federal Bureau of Prisons (FOB) has ended its policy of "freezing" gender-specific medical care upon entry.

The Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders (GLAD) announced the win on Sept. 30. According to GLAD, the old "freeze frame" policy dictated that people diagnosed with Gender Identity Disorder receive hormone therapy and other gender-affirming care that they received prior to incarceration. However, people who entered prisons not on hormones would not necessarily have access to them for transition during their incarceration.

Vanessa Adams, who was detained in Florida and has since been moved to North Carolina, sued BOP in February 2009 after she was denied hormone replacement therapy (HRT). Adams had not received HRT before her incarceration and was consequently denied treatment despite a diagnosis of Gender Identity Disorder by prison medical staff, according to GLAD.

"BOP's freeze frame policy trapped transgender prisoners in despair, leading often to depression, suicide attempts, and in many cases, serious self-harm, as was the case with Vanessa," said Jennifer L. Levi, transgender rights project director for GLAD in a news release.

A federal judge ruled in favor of Adams in June and sent the case to mediation for the two sides to settle.

In May, BOP issued a new memorandum which stated that gender identity "treatment options will not be precluded solely due to level of services received, or lack of services, prior to incarceration."

The memo states that widely accepted practices for treating transgender patients should be used by prison medical and mental health staff.

A recent survey by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and the National Center for Transgender Equality, showed that 17 percent of transgender people in jails and prisons reported having been denied hormones behind bars. In addition, 12 percent reported being denied routine medical care.


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