September 24, 2004

ACLU Challenged DOC Policy Barring Treatment for Gender Identity Disorder

Lawyers for the ACLU of Virginia and the Virginia Department of Corrections have settled a lawsuit over a DOC policy that prevented transgendered inmates from receiving hormones, surgery, or other medical treatment for their condition. The settlement agreement has been signed by all parties, and a final order has been forwarded to a federal judge in Roanoke for entry. Under the agreement, DOC will provide appropriate medical care for transgendered prisoners.
“With this agreement, the Virginia Department of Corrections becomes a national leader in the treatment of trangendered prisoners,” said Victor M. Glasberg, Esq., who represented trangendered inmate Ophelia De’lonta for the ACLU of Virginia. “It is dramatic steps forward that will help transgendered prisoners receive enlightened, professional treatment consistent with their medical needs.”
Under the agreement DOC will identify prisoners with Gender Identity Disorder and create individualized treatment plans designed by a doctor experienced in caring for trangendered persons. The agreement does not exclude any form of appropriate treatment. DOC will train its security staff to prevent harassment of transgendered prisoners and has agreed to house transgendered prisoners “in the most appropriate prison environment reasonably available.”
The agreement also lays out specific guarantees for De’lonta. Incarcerated since 1983, De’lonta began receiving hormone treatments in1993, but the treatment was discontinued when DOC adopted its no-hormone policy. Although De'lonta was given antidepressants, she began to mutilate herself compulsively shortly after the hormone treatments stopped.
The ACLU provided legal representation for De’lonta in the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals after a lower court summarily dismissed her case. The ACLU argued that DOC has a legal responsibility to treat De'lonta's condition, and the Fourth Circuit ordered the lower court to go forward with the case. With the settlement agreement, that will not be necessary
“The previous policy barring hormone treatment was akin to withholding chemotherapy for cancer patients,” added ACLU of Virginia executive director Kent Willis. “All Ms. De’lonta ever wanted was the right to receive proper medical care for her condition, just like any other prisoner.”
Kelly Baldrate, formerly with Victor M. Glasberg & Associates, and ACLU of Virginia legal director Rebecca Glenberg also provided legal representation to De'lonta. De’lonta currently resides at Deerfield Correctional Facility.
A copy of the agreement, with confidential portions omitted, is available by fax or email (acluva@acluva.org).

Contacts: Victor M. Glasberg, Esq., Victor M. Glasberg & Associates, 703-684-1100 Kent Willis, Executive Director, ACLU of Virginia, 804-644-8022 Rebecca K. Glenberg, Esq., Legal Director ACLU of Virginia , 804-644-8022

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