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ACLU of Illinois say transgender medical care inadequate at Illinois prisons

Janiah Monroe
Janiah Monroe (Photo courtesy of UPLC)

CHICAGO —Five transgender women prisoners are suing the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) because of inadequate medical care.

The ACLU of Illinois is representing the women, the organization said in a press release. It said that transgender prisoners in Illinois are at risk because of inadequacies in the medical care offered to prisoners with gender dysphoria by the IDOC.

“Because IDOC has not given me the treatment I need, my gender dysphoria has gotten worse. I feel depressed, hopeless, and suicidal,” said Janiah Monroe, a plaintiff in the lawsuit. “I often feel that I would rather be dead than continue living with this body. I have tried to kill myself many times, including in the past year.”

Monroe waited approximately three years after requesting treatment before her hormone therapy was initiated and the treatment only began after several attempts to treat herself by self-castration. All of the plaintiffs experience significant delays in receiving medically necessary treatment, while some treatments are being denied entirely. Monroe also had to sue the IDOC to be moved to a women’s prison after suffering abuse at a men’s prison.

The ACLU said that the plaintiffs seek a preliminary injunction aimed at putting an end to the poor medical care for gender dysphoria and the suffering from the substandard system of health care. They are also seeking class certification for the lawsuit. The filings ask the court to require IDOC to reform its medical care system in order to treat transgender prisoners more humanely and consistent with the well-established medical standards for treating gender dysphoria.

“These problems stem in part from the fact that decisions about care are handled by a committee of persons made up by some people who have no medical training at all and others, who while they have had medical training, have admitted that they are not qualified to provide care to persons with gender dysphoria,” said John Knight, director of the LGBTQ & HIV Project at the ACLU of Illinois, in the press release. “No other committee exists to decide about medical care for any other medical conditions.”

“Taken together, the records in this case form a clear pattern: IDOC, through the GID Committee, fundamentally misunderstands the serious medical condition of Gender Dysphoria, and lacks expertise and understanding to provide effective care. The care that is provided falls well outside the range of acceptable treatment, and puts patients’ health in serious danger,” wrote one of the experts, Dr. Randi Ettner.

In addition to Knight, Ghirlandi Guidetti, and Carolyn Wald of the ACLU of Illinois, the plaintiffs are represented by Catherine L. Fitzpatrick, Jordan M. Heinz, Erica B. Zolner, Megan M. New, Scott Lerner, Austin B. Stephenson, Sydney L. Schneider, Sam G. Rose, and Cameron Custard of the Chicago office of Kirkland & Ellis LLP. 

The case is Monroe v. Pritzker. You can read the filing here.

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