Sex & Gender /

Federal Bureau of Prisons Ordered to Provide Prisoner with Transgender Surgery

US District Judge says the prisoner must receive the surgery prior to being released in December

A federal court compelled the Federal Bureau of Prisons to provide gender-reassignment surgery to a transgender prisoner.

The order is the first of its kind. The prisoner had reportedly not received care despite multiple requests.

The prisoner, who goes by Cristina Nichole Iglesias, is biologically male and is being housed in a residential reentry center in Florida.

Iglesias is being represented by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) which said the procedure was “medically necessary” and that the order came after three years of litigation. 

While BOP has more than 1,200 transgender people currently in its custody, no federal prisoner—past or present—has ever yet received gender-affirming surgery. With this court order, Ms. Iglesias is now expected to be the first,” the organization said in an April 20 press release

“For years, Cristina has fought to receive the health care the Constitution requires,” Joshua Blecher-Cohen, an ACLU staff attorney working on the lawsuit, told NBC.

“The court’s order makes clear that she needs gender-affirming surgery now and that BOP cannot justify its failure to provide this medically necessary care,” he said. “We hope this landmark decision will help secure long-overdue health care for Cristina — and for the many other transgender people in federal custody who have been denied gender-affirming care.”

The BOP had ruled against providing transgender surgery to Iglesias earlier this year, noted Townhall.

Under the order from U.S. District Judge Nancy Rosenstengel, the BOP must submit a detailed timeline for Iglesias’s surgery and conduct a nationwide search to immediately locate a qualified surgeon. Rosenthal has required the BOP to provide the surgery before Iglesias’s scheduled December 2022 release.

In December of 2021, Rosentangel said the case was urgent as Iglesias suffers from gender dysphoria and could be driven to self-harm.

The judge cited Dr. Randi Ettner, a clinical psychologist who testified during the case, in her ruling and wrote that  “hormone treatment is insufficient” for the 47-year-old prisoner.

“If left partially treated, Iglesias is on three trajectories: psychological decompensation, surgical self-treatment, or suicide,” wrote Rosentengel.

Iglesias was first incarcerated in 1994 and has been in prison for 28 years. The ACLU’s legal action on Iglesias’s behalf resulted in the prisoner being moved to a women’s facility in Fort Worth after more than 20 years in a men’s prison. The BOP approved Iglesias for hormone therapy in 2015.

The prisoner began seeking transgender surgery in 2016. The ACLU says Iglesias has identified as a woman since 1994 and was diagnosed with “gender identity disorder” after being incarcerated.

Iglesias was convicted in 2005 for threatening to use a weapon of mass destruction against the British government. The prisoner sent death threats and white substances to the United Kingdom’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Iglesias was already in federal custody, having pled guilty to threatening a judge in Oklahoma.

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