Lambda Legal Sues Missouri Department of Corrections and Corizon Health Inc. for Denying Health Care to Incarcerated Transgender Woman

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August 22, 2016
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Jessica Hicklin

Today, Lambda Legal filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of Jessica Hicklin, a 37-year-old transgender woman incarcerated at the Potosi Correctional Center, a facility for male inmates, in Mineral Point, Missouri.

The case challenges a Missouri Department of Corrections (MDOC) “freeze-frame” policy that bars access to hormone therapy for inmates and others in custody if they were not receiving treatment prior to incarceration.

Although multiple medical and mental health experts have confirmed Jessica’s gender dysphoria diagnosis and have strongly advised hormone therapy, access to gender-affirming canteen items, and permanent hair removal in accordance with current treatment standards, MDOC officials continue to deny Jessica these medically necessary interventions.

Jessica has exhausted the MDOC grievance process in seeking to access appropriate care.

“MDOC’s ‘freeze-frame’ policy is harmful and arbitrary and specifically targets transgender people for discriminatory treatment,” said Demoya Gordon, Lambda Legal Transgender Rights Project Attorney. “This policy, like similar policies in place in correctional systems across the country, flies in the face of current medical standards.

“Several medical and mental health experts have met with Jessica and recommended hormone treatments for her dysphoria as well as hair removal, and access to gender-affirming canteen items. Unfortunately, the Missouri Department of Corrections has chosen to ignore their professional judgment and assessment, at considerable cost to Jessica. It is cruel, it is unusual, and it is something we are fighting to change for Jessica and others.”

“This personal prison is much crueler, and without a change in policy, I’m not sure I will survive it.”
—  Jessica Hicklin

“Without care, I feel as though I am resentenced each day, further locked in a prison within a prison—my body,” Jessica said at the time of filing. “This personal prison is much crueler, and without a change in policy, I’m not sure I will survive it.”

Jessica, who has been incarcerated for 21 years, was convicted of first degree murder and armed criminal action when she was just 16. She was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole and 100 years.

Because she was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole as a juvenile, her sentence will be reviewed pursuant to recent Supreme Court decisions that determined that such sentences are unconstitutional.

Jessica has used her time in prison productively and positively: participating in restorative justice activities, facilitating a class on the impact of crime on victims, and volunteering with the Puppies for Parole program, where she works with rescue dogs who would otherwise be euthanized so they can be adopted.

Read the press release.