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United States: transgender inmate moved to women’s prison

For the first time in the state, a transgender inmate has been moved from an all-male prison to the state women’s prison, MCI-Framingham (above) to be housed according to her gender identity.

The Massachusetts Department of Correction, under pressure from a federal lawsuit, said it has for the first time moved a transgender inmate from a men’s prison to a women’s prison.

The prisoner’s lawyer, Jennifer L. Levi, said she believes the transfer also marks the first time a transgender prisoner in the United States has been moved to a prison that corresponds to her gender identity.

The 54-year-old inmate, who has lived as a woman and received hormone therapy for nearly 40 years, was transferred from MCI-Norfolk to MCI-Framingham, the state women’s prison, in September, but the move was only disclosed in a court filing this month.

The transfer marks a victory for a growing national movement by advocates who have been pressuring prisons to house inmates according to their gender identity, provide transgender inmates with hormone therapy and other medical treatments, and accommodate prisoners who want to buy makeup at the commissary or wear long hair.

It’s a hugely important development,” said Levi, the director of the Transgender Rights Project at the GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders. “Transgender women can and need to be integrated into women’s facilities and doing so is not just required, but appropriate.

Correction officials declined to explain why they moved the inmate, saying state confidentiality laws prevent them from detailing specific cases. But the department said it acts in accordance with a new state law designed to protect transgender inmates’ rights.

In compliance with the Criminal Justice Reform Act, the Department of Correction diagnoses, treats, and manages gender nonconforming inmates in a humane and safe correctional environment that considers their adjustment needs while working to ensure that placements do not compromise an inmate’s health or safety or present management or security problems,” the department said.

Levi said that although the transfer marks the first time a prisoner in any state has been moved to a facility matching his or her gender identity, the Federal Bureau of Prisons has assigned some transgender inmates to facilities that correspond to their identity when they first report to prison.

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