GRAND RAPIDS, MI (WOOD/CNN) - A new policy will allow some Michigan prisoners, who identify as transgender, to get hormone treatments while incarcerated.
"Every prisoner is important, and so this is something that we wanted to do, that we need to do," said Chris Gautz with the Michigan Department of Corrections.
Inmates would have to prove they suffer from gender dysphoria, which by definition is a conflict between a person's assigned gender and the gender they identify as.
There's now a new gender dysphoria collaborative review committee to make the decision.
If an inmate believes they fall into that category the committee will look over the inmate's medical history and give them a medical and psychological evaluation.
In the past inmates were just examined by the chief medical director and MDOC director.
"When you have a robust committee that can look at this, one way, one reason that is to make sure that were only getting those who truly are experiencing this and are gender dysphoric and not somebody who lives in a cubical with 8 guys and thinks hey this is a great way for me to get my own cell to myself," Gautz said.
If the evaluation supports a diagnosis, a specific treatment plan will be put together for the inmate.
Many times an inmate could be put into a single-cell and have access to toilets and showers with relative privacy.
“In some cases they could be granted hormone treatments and surgical procedures,” Gautz said.
It's all approved on a case-by-case basis.
"Prison can be a dangerous place no matter who you are, what gender you are or what gender you identify as but we feel like this step will make that individual feel as safe as they can be."
Prisoners with gender dysphoria are also allowed at least two reassessments each year, but the looming question remains: Who's paying for the treatments, surgeries and new staff?
"That will come out of our general fund budget so that is taxpayer funded,” Gautz said. “Again it’s on a case by case basis. Previous to that if someone had the hormone therapy going on that could continue, families who have the financial means to provide that for their loved one that's in prison would have the ability to provide that payment as well so it might not always be funded through our budget, it could be funded externally by family members who that want to provide that."
The MDOC says there are currently 50 transgender inmates across Michigan but thinks that number could rise with the new policy.
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