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DOJ sues Utah alleging discrimination against inmate with gender dysphoria

Watch tower at a Utah state correctional facility Associated Press/Photo by Rick Bowmer (pool)

DOJ sues Utah alleging discrimination against inmate with gender dysphoria

The Biden administration filed a lawsuit against the state of Utah on behalf of a male inmate who self-identifies as a woman. The Department of Justice accused the Utah Department of Corrections of violating the Americans with Disabilities Act by initially failing to provide hormone treatments as well as other accommodations to the biologically male prisoner who was diagnosed with gender dysphoria. Hormone treatments are considered medical care to which every prisoner is equally entitled, according to Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Kristen Clarke. The prisoner eventually did begin hormone treatments after a psychologist contracted by the prison diagnosed him with gender dysphoria, according to the lawsuit.

If the prisoner got hormones, why is the Biden administration suing? The DOJ alleges the treatments were not provided safely or effectively and were hampered by an unnecessarily long approval process. The prisoner also sought amendments to prison policy to accommodate his gender dysphoria, including the ability to purchase female clothing and other personal items in the commissary. He also requested a modification to pat searches and that his housing requests be individually assessed out of concern for discrimination from other prisoners. The DOJ alleges that discrimination by the prison harmed the inmate, who was ultimately hospitalized for attempting to cut off his own genitals last year.

What kind of damages are being sought? The lawsuit requests compensatory damages be paid to the inmate and other affected individuals for injuries from the alleged ADA violation. The petition also requests that all Utah Department of Corrections employees receive training on gender dysphoria and be required to provide what it defines as “nondiscriminatory health care services.” Additionally, the lawsuit asks the court to require modifications to prison policies to avoid what the DOJ views as discrimination against prisoners with gender dysphoria.

How has the prison responded? The prison system has taken its own steps to address prisoner needs while maintaining safety standards, according to UDOC Executive Director Brian Redd. He said the department was blindsided and disappointed by the DOJ’s lawsuit, adding that the UDOC fundamentally disagrees with the complaint’s key issues.

Dig deeper: Read Juliana Chan Erikson and Lauren Canterberry’s report on leaked documents from a transgender health organization showing internal concerns about giving children hormone treatments.

Christina Grube

Christina Grube is a graduate of the World Journalism Institute.

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