Victory! Federal Court Orders Health Care for Transgender Missouri Inmate

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February 9, 2018
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Today, a federal district court ordered the Missouri Department of Corrections (MDOC) and its contracted healthcare provider, Corizon LLC, to immediately provide Jessica Hicklin, a 38-year-old transgender woman incarcerated at the Potosi Correctional Center in Mineral Point, with care that her doctors deem to be medically necessary treatment for her gender dysphoria, including hormone therapy, access to permanent body hair removal, and access to gender-affirming canteen items.

“This decision is such a welcome relief. Jessica will finally have access to the potentially life-saving medical care she has waited so many years for,” said Demoya Gordon, Transgender Rights Project Attorney for Lambda Legal.

“Forcing her to go without medically necessary treatment was unnecessarily cruel and the source of a lot of pain and anguish for her. Furthermore, this makes clear that the Eighth Amendment requires that prisons provide all forms of medically necessary treatment for gender dysphoria. Ensuring that Ms. Hicklin receives constitutionally adequate medical care while the lawsuit proceeds was the humane thing to do.”

In April 2017, Lambda Legal filed a motion for a preliminary injunction asking the Court to grant Ms. Hicklin immediate access to hormone therapy, permanent body hair removal as well as access to gender-affirming canteen items – all recommended by her doctors as part of her treatment in accordance with the prevailing standards of care.

Lambda Legal is challenging Defendants’ discriminatory “freeze-frame” policy that affects Ms. Hicklin and all transgender inmates in Missouri. The policy is a blanket ban on the treatment of inmates and others in custody who have been diagnosed with gender dysphoria if they were not receiving treatment prior to incarceration.

According to Richard Saenz, Staff Attorney and Criminal Justice and Police Misconduct Strategist, “Today’s decision joins a number of federal courts that have held that such arbitrary and discriminatory policies violate the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment.”

“For years, I felt like I had been drowning,” said Jessica Hicklin. “But today, I can finally breathe because I will be able to start an important part of my transition that I had been waiting for desperately. Today’s decision is like someone threw me a life preserver—it has saved my life.”