Michigan has changed its policy on providing medically necessary treatments to transgender prison inmates.
A new policy adopted by the Michigan Department of Corrections takes effect today which means transgender people can receive hormone therapy and other medical treatments while in prison.
The change came after a trans woman incarcerated pushed the MDoC to change its policy.
Previously hormone therapy was limited to individuals who were already on hormone therapy before entering prison.
But now the new policy, resulting from a legal challenge in the US state in Georgia, allows trans prisoners to start hormone therapy, and also to be considered for gender reassignment surgery.
Trans prisoner Jami Naturalite wrote to the Southern Poverty Law Center last year relating to the Georgia case, Diamond v Owens, which successfully challenged a discriminatory policy.
Later the SPLC and the ALCU of Michigan asked the MDoC to change its policy.
“We are pleased that the Michigan Department of Corrections took this important step to ensure that transgender people in prisons receive the care they need – and which the Constitution requires,” said David Dinielli, SPLC deputy legal director.
“We hope it also ensures they are treated with the dignity and respect they deserve.”
The new policy removes the need for “extraordinary circumstances” for gender reassignment surgery as the previous policy required.
The Gender Dysphoria Collaborative Review Committee will now rule on whether trans prisoners should receive hormone replacement therapy, rather than the chief medical officer and MDoC director.
The new policy also allows trans prisoners the right to two reassessments a year by a medical provider.
Treatment plans must also now include access to gender-appropriate toilet and shower facilities with relative privacy and access to gender-appropriate prison store items and clothing.
As well as providing necessary medical care, the policy means staff are required to act respectfully and professionally when communicating with trans prisoners and when searching them.
Naturalite’s case has already been reviewed by the Committee and it has been recommended that she be given hormone replacement therapy, which she has already started.
“Transgender people who are sentenced to serve time in our prisons should not be forced to endure cruel and unusual punishment because of their gender identity,” said Jay Kaplan, LGBT Project staff attorney at the ACLU of Michigan. “This is not some kind of preferential treatment; all inmates have a fundamental right to medical care, safety and a basic level of respect.”
Naturalite last month wrote to the SPLC to say that the new policy ends a “struggle within the MDOC—one that caused unknown trials and tribulations upon my trans-sisters, as well as upon myself.”
She wrote that her life had “become more bearable and hopeful,” and thanked the SPLC.