Is Hormone Therapy and Sex Reassignment Surgery a Right for Inmates?

In the United States, every citizen has fundamental rights that are guaranteed under the Constitution and reinforced by state laws. These fundamental rights are guaranteed to every citizen on condition that every citizen agrees to follow the laws and rules of our society. When a person violates a law and is arrested and convicted for violating that law, the court, when determining the sentence for that person, weighs the severity of the offense with the severity of the punishment. The Eighth Amendment protects criminal defendants from cruel and unusual punishment, when the punishment does not fit the crime.

If you or a loved one have been convicted of an offense and believe that your rights have been violated under the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution, it is important to speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney. Please contact West Palm Beach criminal defense attorney William Wallshein for a confidential consultation.

The Balance Between Guaranteed Rights and the Obligation of a Citizen

As an inmate within the Florida Department of Corrections and its facilities, the rights that were enjoyed by you as a free civilian can be stripped away because you broke the covenant between you and society. Because you broke the law, society no longer guarantees to you all of your fundamental rights. For example, by committing the felony offense, the right for you to walk around society in public has been revoked, and you are now only permitted to the freedoms that are extended to you in prison.

Rights of an Inmate

There is a limit to the number of fundamental rights that are taken away from you as an inmate in the prison system. As an inmate, you are protected and have the right to:

  • Be free from sexual crimes and sexual harassment,
  • Be free from any punishment that is inhumane or violates a person’s dignity,
  • Complain about prison conditions and voice these complaints to the Courts,
  • Adequate medical care and attention,
  • Adequate mental health care,
  • First Amendment rights that are not inconsistent with their inmate status or the operation of a the Department of Corrections and its facilities,
  • Be free from racial segregation,
  • A reasonable expectation of privacy except when security and inmate safety are in question, among other rights.
Do Inmate Rights Include the Right to Identity?

Recently, the Department of Corrections in Florida, as well as, in other States, are being required to evaluate inmates’ rights to determine whether an inmate may identify as another gender. Transgender issues have been placed at the forefront of several debates, and within the last year, issues of transgender rights have entered into the prison system. For many who identify as transgendered, becoming an inmate may not only mean the limitation of their rights as people, but their rights to “identify” as well. Men and women who are in the process of sex reassignment may have been taking hormone treatments, as well as receiving mental health consultations to aid in their transformations. By entering into the prison system, these hormone treatments and mental health counseling may no longer be accessible to a transgender person, forcing him or her to not only return to his/her rejected identity, which can be traumatic enough, but places the person in a possibly harmful and hostile environment with those who do not accept transgender identity.

Rights of Transgender Inmates Around the United States: Battleground Cases

California, in January of 2017, was the first state to permit an incarcerated inmate to receive sex reassignment surgery that was state funded. This came after several lawsuits in recent years have come to the same conclusion: Hormone therapy and sex reassignment surgery are medically necessary to alleviate the trauma of gender dysphoria. These are not isolated incidences; in a 2015 survey, roughly 1,118 prisoners in the United States who identify as LGBTQ, 44% have been denied access to hormones that they have requested. Of those questioned for the survey, about 78% of the transgender and nonbinary respondents experienced severe emotional pain resulting from hiding their gender identity in the prison and during the criminal legal system. The Department of Justice filed a statement on behalf of one transgender woman in the Georgia Department of Corrections that failing to treat gender dysphoria violates the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment.

Rights of Transgender Inmates in Florida: Unsettled Law

The issue has not been settled in Florida; the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Florida brought suit against the Florida Department of Corrections on behalf of a transgender inmate who ultimately died in prison only months after the ACLU picked up her case. The ACLU asked the judge to dismiss her case, but later picked up another transgendered inmate’s case to bring against the Florida Department of Corrections in coming months.

Please contact West Palm Beach criminal defense attorney William Wallshein for a confidential consultation.