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IDOC trans healthcare court case continues
by Matt Simonette
2019-05-14

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Litigation continues in a federal lawsuit filed by five transgender Illinois prisoners who say that their healthcare is inadequate with Illinois Department of Corrections ( IDOC ) facilities.

The prisoners, all of whom are transgender females, say that they "have experienced denials of basic medical treatment, inordinate delays in receiving even minimal care, and care that completely fails to meet applicable medical standards," according to ACLU of Illinois.

The litigation has been ongoing since January 2018 in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Illinois. Plaintiffs in the case are Janiah Monroe, Marilyn Melendez, Lydia Helena Vision, Sora Kuykendall and Sasha Reed.

ACLU filed additional testimony from experts in early May alleging that IDOC's means of meting out healthcare—which is determined by a committee, not all of which is composed of medical professionals—is especially harmful to transgender prisoners.

"It's a committee that doesn't have any expertise that can in practice delay, and even deny necessary medical care," explained John Knight, director of the LGBTQ & HIV Project at the ACLU of Illinois. "They just routinely deny certain kinds of care—surgery is never provided and gender-affirming clothing and grooming products of varying sorts are never provided."

Knight and his colleagues are seeking class certification on behalf of all IDOC prisoners who have requested evaluation or treatment for gender dysphoria.

Knight added that IDOC's practices "are entirely contrary to the standards of care that have been around and applicable for many years."

He added that the system seemed to be in place not "out of trans-animus, but a lack of knowledge and understanding" in IDOC's vast bureaucracy. "It is a specialized area of medical care, and they don't have that specialization."

Nevertheless, IDOC needs to follow established standards and be able to deliver culturally-competent care, Knight added.

"It involves finding people who have the expertise," he said. "If you don't have the people in-house, that means getting training for people or relying on outside experts to advise you about the kind of care that someone needs.

"That may also mean getting rid of this committee entirely. The problem is that the committee is a roadblock and it slows things down. If there's a committee, it has to be one with expertise and knowledge and is no longer just barring certain kinds of care across the board."


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