CA Prison to Provide Surgery to Trans Woman

by Seth Hemmelgarn
Sunday Aug 16, 2015
Shiloh Quine
Shiloh Quine  (Source:Courtesy SFINX Publishing/The Women of San Quentin )

State prison officials have reached a groundbreaking settlement with a transgender woman held in a men's prison and will provide gender-affirming surgery for her, while another imprisoned transgender woman who's been seeking surgery from the state was paroled this week.

The Oakland-based Transgender Law Center announced August 7 that the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation will provide surgery and other medical care for Shiloh Quine, 56.

"After so many years of almost giving up on myself, I will finally be liberated from the prison within a prison I felt trapped in, and feel whole, both as a woman and as a human being," Quine said in a Friday news release from TLC. "I'm just overwhelmed, especially knowing that this will help so many other people. I know I can never truly make amends for what I've done in the past, but I am committed to making myself a better person, and to helping others so they don't have to struggle the way I have."

Quine has been serving a term of life without the possibility of parole since 1981 after being convicted in Los Angeles County for first-degree murder, kidnapping, and robbery. She's being held in Mule Creek State Prison, a men's facility in Ione, California.

Quine is one of several people profiled in "The Women of San Quentin: Soul Murder of Transgender Women in Male Prisons," a book by Kristin Schreier Lyseggen that's set to be released in September.

According to an unproofed galley of the book, Quine wrote to Lyseggen that she'd told police in 1980 "that the gun used to murder someone was hers, even though it wasn't. She was serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole for a murder she said she did not commit."

TLC officials called last week's settlement "historic."

"This historic settlement is a tremendous victory, not just for Shiloh and transgender people in prison, but for all transgender people who have ever been denied medical care or basic recognition of our humanity just because of who we are," TLC Executive Director Kris Hayashi said in a statement. "After years of unnecessary suffering, Shiloh will finally get the care she desperately needs - and transgender people nationwide will hear a state government affirm that our identities and medical needs are as valid as anyone else's."

In an email, CDCR spokesman Jeffrey Callison said officials treat situations like Quine's on a "case-by-case basis."

"The Eighth Amendment of the Constitution requires that prisons provide medically necessary treatment for inmates," Callison said. "CDCR evaluates every case individually and in the Quine case, every medical doctor and mental health clinician who has reviewed this case, including two independent mental health experts, determined that this surgery is medically necessary for Quine," who's also known as Rodney James.

In the settlement, the state also agreed to change its policies to allow transgender prisoners access to clothing and other items "consistent with their gender identity," and the state "also affirmed that it is revising its policies regarding transgender inmates' access to medically necessary treatment for gender dysphoria, including surgery," according to TLC, which represented Quine along with pro bono counsel from the law firm of Morgan, Lewis and Bockius LLP.

Flor Bermudez, TLC's Detention Project Director, called the agreement "truly historic and unprecedented."

"Ms. Quine will be the first transgender inmate in the country to receive gender-affirming surgery while incarcerated, to our knowledge," Bermudez stated. "This agreement makes clear that jails and prisons can no longer deny transgender people medically necessary surgeries, clothing, or cosmetics under the Eighth and 14th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution."

Morgan, Lewis, and Bockius has also been representing Michelle-Lael Norsworthy, 51, another transgender woman who's been trying to get prison officials to provide surgery.

In April, U.S. District Judge Jon Tigar for the Northern District of California ruled that the state has to provide Norsworthy with gender-affirming medical care. Officials including Attorney General Kamala Harris have been fighting the order.

However, Norsworthy recently won a parole hearing. CDCR issued a statement Wednesday that she has been released and will be supervised in San Francisco.

Norsworthy, who's also known as Jeffrey Bryan Norsworthy, was convicted of second-degree murder and in 1987 was admitted to prison. Like Quine, she's been in custody at Mule Creek.

TLC didn't immediately provide a comment from Norsworthy for this story.

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  • Errol Horne, 2015-08-16 11:16:12

    So the state should pay for personal surgery for people who have committed crimes & are serving a sentence for such?

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