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Judge orders IDOC transgender healthcare overhaul
by Matt Simonette
2019-12-23

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A federal judge ordered Dec. 19 that the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) fix practices by which a "transgender committee"—composed of individuals with no experience in transgender-specific healthcare delivery—is tasked with meting out gender-dysphoria related medical services to IDOC detainees.

Prisoners will now be able to more easily access hormone therapy, gender-appropriate clothing and other resources to facilitate a more straightforward social transition. The order, issued in an injunction by U.S. District Court Judge Nancy Rosenstengel, also directed IDOC to stop automatically routing prisoners to facilities based on their genitalia or physical appearance.

The injunction comes after a May 2019 lawsuit by five transgender prisoners who said that they were subject to mistreatment while serving sentences in IDOC facilities. Among those prisoners was Strawberry Hampton, who was eventually released after being held in a series of facilities for male prisoners.

Hampton told Windy City Times in July 2019 that she was subjected to treatment in prison that left her feeling "embarrassed, degraded and dehumanized" during her incarceration. "It was a disgrace to be transgender" in prison, she added. "Every day you were in there, you were fighting for your life."

Rosenstengel's order affords prisoners access to culturally competent medical service providers, as well as the ability to obtain evaluations for gender dysphoria on their own volition or at the directive of healthcare personnel. IDOC staff must also participate in training on transgender-related issues.

"This is a sweeping victory for our clients, who have been subject to unspeakable harm by a Department of Corrections that has truly been deliberately indifferent to our clients' suffering. We look forward to ensuring that IDOC complies with the order without any delay so that all prisoners who have gender dysphoria in Illinois will receive humane and professional treatment," said Ghirlandi Guidetti, staff attorney of the LGBTQ & HIV Project at the ACLU of Illinois, who has been representing the plaintiffs.

IDOC has until Jan. 22, 2020, to notify the court of how it intends to implement the changes.


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