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Biden DOJ Accuses Utah Prisons of Discrimination After Trans Prisoner Removes His Testicles



President Joe Biden’s Justice Department announced Wednesday that it had filed a lawsuit accusing the state of Utah, and its Department of Corrections, of violating the Americans with Disabilities Act in failing to give a man hormones for his gender dysphoria.

The prisoner, who identifies as a transgender woman, is said to have requested to purchase women’s clothing and “personal items in the commissary,” such as women’s underwear and makeup.

He also wanted to be housed with female prisoners, the DOJ said. The Utah Department of Corrections assigns prison accommodations based upon sex at “commitment,” when staffers conduct a visual search of genitals, according to the Justice Department.

The Utah Department of Corrections did not grant those requests, the DOJ said, accusing the Utah agency of causing the man’s gender dysphoria to worsen.

“Twenty-two months after entering custody,” the DOJ said, the trans-identifying prisoner “performed dangerous self-surgery and removed [his] own testicles.”

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“People with gender dysphoria, including those held in jails and prisons, are protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act and are entitled to equal access to medical care, just like anyone else with a disability,” Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division said in a statement.

“Delays or refusals to provide medical treatment for people with gender dysphoria can cause irreparable harm, including debilitating distress, depression, attempts at self-treatment and even death by suicide,” Clarke added. “The Civil Rights Division is committed to protecting the rights of all people with disabilities in our country, including those who experience gender dysphoria—and those rights are not given up at the jailhouse door.”

The DOJ also accused the Utah Department of Corrections of “imposing unnecessary eligibility criteria for assessment and treatment for gender dysphoria that it does not require for other conditions.” A letter of findings to the Utah agency states that the prison system routes requests for “medical care” for gender dysphoria through its gender dysphoria committee.

If a man in the Utah Department of Corrections self-identifies as a transgender woman, he will have to request an evaluation by the agency’s mental health staff, and these staffers then present their findings to the gender dysphoria committee. The committee will decide whether or not to refer the man to a health care provider for a diagnostic evaluation for gender dysphoria, and if the committee approves the evaluation, the Department of Corrections will refer the individual to its contract psychologist, according to the letter of findings.

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“If the committee denies the evaluation, the incarcerated person must wait one year before they are eligible to request diagnostic services again,” the letter said. “After a diagnostic assessment, [the Utah Department of Corrections] medical staff will consider the psychologist’s recommendations and may order treatment with hormones, but not ‘[c]osmetic or elective surgical procedures for the purpose of sex reassignment.’”

The Justice Department claims that the committee included people who were reluctant to prescribe hormones for gender dysphoria, calling that “overt bias against the individuals seeking care.”

When the Department of Corrections finally allowed the prisoner identified in the Justice Department’s lawsuit to start hormonal medication, the DOJ claimed, the prisoner’s Department of Corrections doctor tried to talk him out of taking hormones. The DOJ claims that the doctor then failed to take “basic steps to ensure that it was provided safely and effectively,” such as conducting routine laboratory testing.

The Justice Department is calling on the Utah agency to adopt, revise, and implement new policies that let men who think they are women or women who think they are men to obtain “health care services” for gender dysphoria, and to “reasonably modify UDOC policies, practices, and procedures when necessary to ensure that individuals with gender dysphoria have equal access to all UDOC services, programs, and activities including commissary, pat and visual searches, housing, and required and optional programming.”

The Utah Department of Corrections said in a March 12 statement that it is working to address the “complex” issue and described itself as “blindsided” by the DOJ’s announcement regarding its findings in March.

“We have also taken steps on our own, and as a state, to address the needs of inmates while maintaining the highest safety standards,” Executive Director Brian Redd said in a statement. “We fundamentally disagree with the DOJ on key issues, and are disappointed with their approach.”