St. Louis, MO – A federal judge ruled Feb. 9 that the Missouri prison system must provide transgender hormone therapy for a prisoner who is serving life in prison for murder.
The prison system didn’t previously allow for hormone therapy for prisoners who weren’t receiving it before they were incarcerated, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
A lawsuit challenged that policy and alleges it violates the Constitution’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Noelle Collins granted in part a preliminary injunction brought on behalf of Jessica Hicklin, 38. Hicklin is a transgender woman in a maximum security prison, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.
“This decision is such a welcome relief,” said Demoya Gordon, an attorney for Hicklin and Transgender Rights Project attorney for Lambda Legal. “Jessica will finally have access to the potentially life-saving medical care she has waited so many years for.”
Hicklin was sentenced to life in prison at age 16. A male at the time, he was convicted of shooting a man to death in a drug-related crime in 1995.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that Hicklin was diagnosed with gender dysphoria in 2015, according to the lawsuit.
Gender dysphoria is described by the American Psychiatric Association as the distress felt by someone due to a conflict and disconnect between their gender at birth and the different gender with which they identify with later in life.
The prison system and its health care provider must immediately provide Hicklin with the care her doctors deemed medically necessary, based on the judge’s ruling.
Hicklin was at risk of irreparable harm including self-castration and suicide if she didn’t receive treatment, according to the ruling.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that the treatment for gender dysphoria includes hormone therapy, permanent body hair removal, and access to “gender-affirming” hygienic products (tampons and pads.)