JANUARY 26, 2012
In a classic “only in America” case, a federal court has found that prison officials in one state violated a transgender inmate’s constitutional rights by refusing to provide taxpayer-funded laser hair removal treatments.
The bizarre case comes from Massachusetts where a male inmate, who identities as female, is serving a sentence at a correctional institution in Norfolk. The criminal, Christine Alexander, was diagnosed with “gender identity disorder” in 2003 and receives hormone replacement therapy and psychological counseling as he progresses “towards feminization.”
As if this weren’t outrageous enough, Alexander also wants taxpayers to finance the cosmetic beauty treatment of laser hair removal because in his case it’s medically necessary, according to his attorneys. That’s because the inmate has a rare medical condition, according to court documents cited in a legal report this week; he “suffers from facial and body hair, and male pattern baldness.”
Evidently prison officials drew the line and refused the laser hair removal, so Alexander sued in federal court, claiming that corrections department officials are violating his Eighth Amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment and Fourteenth Amendment right to equal protection. Alexander asserts in his complaint that the failure to provide him with laser hair removal (referred to as “medical treatment”) will lead to serious bodily harm, untreated mental illness and continued depression.
A federal judge in Massachusetts agreed, ruling that Alexander’s allegations are sufficient to establish that he has a serious medical need (presumably for laser hair removal) which has not been adequately treated under the Eighth Amendment standard. Appointed by Richard Nixon in 1972, the judge (Joseph Tauro) found that prison officials knew of Alexander’s need for “medical care” yet failed to provide it.
Many states across the county spend thousands of taxpayer dollars annually to provide transgender inmates—diagnosed with gender identity disorder—with hormone treatments, hair removal, makeup and women’s underwear. A few years ago a separate Massachusetts inmate, convicted of murdering his wife, sued the Department of Corrections to pay for an expensive sex-change surgery, claiming that he is a woman trapped in a man’s body.
For a couple of years Wisconsin was the only state with a law prohibiting the Department of Corrections from using tax dollars for transgender inmates’ hormone therapy or sex reassignment surgery. The measure was legally challenged and overturned by a federal court in 2010, however. The Clinton-appointed judge who heard the case ruled that denying convicted male felons hormones that help them look like women violates both the Eighth and Fourteenth amendments. Only in America!
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