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Federal Court Denies State Motion In Transgender Prisoner Case

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SPRINGFIELD — A federal district court in Southern Illinois denied a request Thursday from the Illinois Department of Corrections to dismiss a class-action lawsuit against the department for its treatment of transgender prisoners.

That case, Monroe v. Jeffreys, was originally filed in 2018 as Monroe v. Rauner by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of five transgender women in IDOC custody. According to the ACLU of Illinois, the prisoners have experienced “denials of basic medical treatment” and “inordinate delays” in care.

The case became a class-action lawsuit last year after the court certified transgender individuals in IDOC custody as collective plaintiffs.

“There is no medical reason for such excruciatingly painful and risky denials, delays, and other missteps in providing treatment to prisoners with gender dysphoria,” the ACLU’s webpage for the case reads.

The ACLU won a preliminary injunction in the case in 2019 when U.S. District Judge Nancy Rosenstengel ordered IDOC to reform its policies for dealing with transgender inmates. Prior to the ruling, IDOC was found to have used a “Transgender Care and Review Committee” to make medical decisions regarding trans prisoners, despite the committee having no members qualified for professionally treating gender dysphoria.

As a result, Rosenstengel’s order required IDOC to bring in qualified medical experts to develop care plans for transgender detainees based on the World Professional Association for Transgender Health’s standards of care, give inmates medical evaluations for gender dysphoria and provide monitored hormone therapy to transgender prisoners seeking to transition in custody.

IDOC’s attempt to have the case dismissed through summary judgment was based “in part on the efforts that have been made to comply with the preliminary injunction,” an argument the court rejected Thursday. Its opinion stated the defendants “have not yet implemented the policy changes they describe, and many practices which gave rise to this suit are still ongoing.”

Even though IDOC has not fully implemented every reform ordered in that 2019 injunction, the court issued a Jan. 6 opinion that “(IDOC officials) are indeed still working diligently to implement the Court’s preliminary injunction order,” and acknowledged delays were unavoidable due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

While the court has denied IDOC’s request for a dismissal, it also denied the plaintiff’s request in January for an independent monitor to be appointed to oversee IDOC’s compliance with the mandated reforms.

“After months of dragging their feet and ignoring the clear needs of our clients in their custody, the State instead sought to get out of the lawsuit… That is wholly inadequate for our clients, who continue to endure significant harm from existing Department policies,” John Knight, LGBTQ director at the ACLU of Illinois, said in a Friday release. “We are pleased the Court soundly rejected the State’s effort to escape its constitutional duty to promptly reform its health care system and hope to have a chance soon to prove our case at trial.”

A spokesperson for IDOC said the department could not comment on pending litigation. 

COVID-19 is a rapidly evolving story, and we are working hard to bring you the most up-to-date information. We recommend checking the Coronavirus Information Center for the most recent numbers and guidance.

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Capitol News Illinois

Capitol News Illinois

Capitol News Illinois is a nonprofit news service operated by the Illinois Press Foundation that provides coverage of state government to newspapers throughout Illinois. It is funded by donations from the Illinois Press Foundation and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation. The mission of Capitol News Illinois is to provide credible and unbiased coverage of state government. Capitol News Illinois provides year-round, daily coverage of the Legislature, including committee hearings; state agencies and issues; state office holders; and the Illinois Supreme Court and legal matters.

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