A transgender inmate convicted for murder that is asking the state of California to pay for her gender-reaffirmation surgery has just received parole.
Gov. Jerry Brown has set quite a precedent by allowing the parole that had been recommended in the case of Michelle-Lael Norsworthy, the transgender inmate hoping to turn California into the first state that agrees to cover the costs of gender-reassignment surgery.
Back in April, Norsworthy’s case took a surprising twist when a federal judge granted her request and ordered the state of California to provide the surgery. As expected, the state appealed the judge’s decision and the surgery, which had initially been scheduled for July, was delayed.
The inmate in question was imprisoned over three decades ago for fatally shooting a man in a bar fight. Back then, Norsworthy identified as male. But in the 1990’s, he began to transition. The parole board deemed Norsworthy no longer violent and suggested that her parole be granted.
Currently, Norsworthy is still being held in an all-men prison, despite identifying as female. Since the 1990’s, Norsworthy has been on female hormone therapy.
But Governor Brown’s decision means that the state is more than unlikely to end up paying for Norsworthy’s procedure. With the inmate’s parole release, the 51-year-old will most likely not have her surgery funded by the prison. According to Luis Patino, parole board spokesperson, an inmate generally requires a week to be released following the governor’s agreement to his or her parole.
The issue of the inmate’s gender reassignment surgery raised relevant legal questions when Norsworthy’s legal team argued that denying the inmate’s surgery would represent a violation of her constitutional rights against unusual punishment.
However, California’s Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation insists that it has efficiently provided the transgender inmate with hormone therapy and counselling through this confusing period. In so doing, they add, it met all of its legal requirements.
In a separate lawsuit, the state agreed to cover the costs of gender reassignment surgery for Shiloh Quine, a 56-year-old inmate. Yet in this case, Jeffrey Callison, corrections department spokesman explains, the surgery was “medically necessary for Quine.”
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