Judge rules Illinois prison officials must read evidence from from lawsuit

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Image by Lisa Kennedy from Pixabay

CHAMPAIGN — A federal judge has ruled that Illinois prison officials must read evidence and transcripts from a lawsuit brought against the prison system by transgender prisoners.

The suit was brought by five trans women last year because of inadequate medical care within the prison system.

U.S. District Court Judge Nancy Rosenstengel told Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) official to report on progress and singled out three prison officials for potential sanctions, according to the Champaign News-Gazette.

Rosenstengel has been issuing rulings on various cases with transgender prisoners since 2018, often ruling in favor of the plantiffs. She ruled last month that the IDOC needs to revamp their health system.

Rosenstengel gave IDOC officials what the News-Gazette described as an “extra homework assignment.”

“The court notes that no (corrections) representative attended any portion of the two-day preliminary injunction hearing. Because the court is concerned that IDOC is not taking plaintiffs’ allegations in this lawsuit seriously, the court orders each named defendant shall read the transcript of the evidentiary hearing, held on July 31-Aug. 1, and certify to the court, on or before Jan. 2, 2020, that he has done so.”

Despite the governor’s office being much more supportive of LGBTQ rights since the election, the IDOC has continued to be the defendant of a number of lawsuits in the past couple of years, including medical care for transgender prisoners, transferring prisoners to women’s prisons and retaliating against those who have sued. The department issued a new social media policy for corrections officers after it was found out transphobic comments were being made.

The News-Gazette article also quoted a Champaign psychiatrist who disagreed with the ACLU of Illinois’ position that gender dysphoria needs to be addressed to revolve the issues.

While the ACLU maintains that gender dysphoria is the problem that must be addressed to resolve the trans inmates’ issues, Dr. Lawrence Jeckel, a Champaign psychiatrist, expressed skepticism of that view.

“That’s not the case if you look at it in depth. These are very complicated, often tortured individuals,” Jeckel said.

He said they “have a belief they’re the wrong sex” and are often convinced that “surgery and changing will make them feel better.”

“That’s the wish, and that’s the hope,” said Jeckel, indicating that it’s not necessarily the result.

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