A Massachusetts inmate serving life in prison for murder is in court demanding the state pay for a sex-change operation:
The case of Michelle — formerly Robert — Kosilek is being closely watched across the country by advocates for other inmates who want to undergo a sex change.
Kosilek, 58, was convicted of strangling his wife in 1990. He claimed he killed her in self-defense after she spilled boiling tea on his genitals.
Naturally, expert witnesses are lining up to defend Kosilek, and a law firm is representing him pro bono:
Two other doctors retained and paid for by the department’s outside health provider, the University of Massachusetts Correctional Health Program, at a cost of just under $19,000 said they believe the surgery is medically necessary for Kosilek. Two other doctors who work for the health provider agreed with that.
In addition, two psychiatrists who testified for Kosilek recommended the surgery. A Boston law firm representing Kosilek for free paid for those experts but would not disclose the cost.
Aside from the propriety of taxpayers paying for a sex change operation (which Kosilek may or may not have been able to pay for himself had he not been in prison), corrections officials are correct that having a (now) woman in a male prison could pose significant problems. It is almost a given that should the operation be performed, Kosilek would petition to be moved to a women’s prison to protect his own safety.
Also, note the interesting correction at the bottom of the story:
(This version CORRECTS `himself’ to `herself.’)
Kosilek hasn’t had the sex change yet, so technically he is still a man – apparently the newspaper thought so, too. It would be interesting to find out who compelled them to change the story to portray Kosilek as a female – and in the process perhaps avoid their own lawsuit.
As noted in the story, Wisconsin went through a similar situation in 2004 when inmate Scott (now Donna Dawn) Konitzer was denied genital gender reassignment surgery by the Department of Corrections and sued the state. Department policy had been to provide hormone therapy to those who had been receiving it for a year before their incarceration, but surgery was not provided as an option. As Kosilek now has, Konitzer claimed denial of the procedure constituted “cruel and unusual punishment” in violation of the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
As a result of Konitzer’s lawsuit, the Wisconsin Legislature actually passed into law a ban on both hormone therapy and gender reassignment surgery. Naturally, that new law has been challenged in U.S. District Court in Milwaukee.