Rights group says lack of treatment allows uncontrollable self-abuse to continue.The ACLU of Virginia has taken the case of a transsexual prisoner who is not receiving proper medical treatment for her condition. Ophelia De'lonta, who was born a man but has been diagnosed with gender identity disorder, has been compulsively attempting to castrate herself since the Department of Corrections suspended her hormone treatments in the mid-nineties.
Although De'lonta has been receiving antidepressants, the self-mutilation has not stopped. She has tried unsuccessfully to castrate herself more than twenty times over the last half dozen years. On two occasions, she had to be airlifted to hospitals to treat life-threatening conditions that developed as a result of the castration attempts. The ACLU maintains that the Department of Corrections has a legal responsibility to treat De'lonta's condition so that the self-abuse stops.
De'lonta began receiving hormones in 1993, but in 1995 the Department of Corrections adopted a policy preventing prison doctors from prescribing them to inmates.
The case is now in the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond . De'lonta, who represented herself until ACLU lawyers took over the case, received an adverse ruling from the U.S. District Court in Roanoke before appealing.
"The real tragedy in this situation is that for a few dollars each month Ophelia De'lonta could be receiving hormone treatments that would likely solve the problem," said ACLU of Virginia executive director Kent Willis. "Instead, her disorder remains untreated, and taxpayers are expected to pick up the tab for the considerable medical costs that stem from her uncontrollable urges."
The ACLU is also concerned about how prison medical policies are made. "If the Department of Corrections can decide to eliminate medical treatment for one kind of disorder," added Willis, "what is to prevent it from adding others to the list?"
Lawyers Victor M. Glasberg of Glasberg & Associates in Alexandria and ACLU of Virginia legal director Rebecca Glenberg are providing legal representation to De'lonta. The case is styled Ophelia Azriel De'lonta v. Ronald Angelone. The ACLU's brief was filed with the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals on May 20, 2002 and is available by contacting the ACLU of Virginia.
Contacts: Kent Willis, Executive Director, ACLU of Virginia, 804-644-8022 Rebecca K. Glenberg, Legal Director, ACLU of Virginia, 804-644-8022 Victor M. Glasberg, 703-684-1100