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Wisc. Transgender Inmates Must Be Given Hormones: 7th Cir.

By Stephanie Rabiner, Esq. on August 09, 2011 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

A group of transgender inmates in Wisconsin will now be entitled to receive hormone replacement therapy as a result of a 7th Circuit ruling striking down a state statute that prohibits the Wisconsin Department of Corrections from providing hormone replacement therapy.

Comparing the denial of such medical treatment to torture, the court concluded that the Wisconsin law violates the 8th Amendment's protection against cruel and unusual punishment, and that the state put forth no rational basis on which to deny the treatment.

In reviewing the evidence presented at trial, the court first concluded that Gender Identity Disorder (GID) causes "severe anxiety, depression, and other psychological disorders," as well as leads to suicide attempts and self-mutilation.

Under the 8th Amendment, prisons must treat inmates' serious medical needs.

Wisconsin argued that, while it must treat serious medical conditions like GID, inmates are not entitled to specific types of treatment.

However, the court found that, for some transgender inmates, hormone therapy is the only effective treatment, relieving the psychological effects of the disorder.

And denying the only effective treatment without an overriding penological interest is akin to torture under the 8th Amendment.

Wisconsin was unable to argue that the law was based on cost, as hormone therapy costs about half as much as antipsychotic drugs.

The court also denied the state's argument that hormone therapy contributes to prison violence, as transgender inmates are targets for violence even before treatment.

Unless a state can come up with a good reason to withhold hormone therapy, as a result of this ruling, transgender inmates that are held within the 7th Circuit will be able to access the hormone therapy so long as it is determined to be the only effective option.

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