Transgender female inmate, Lyralisa Stevens.

I was listening to the Pat Morrison Show on my local public radio station yesterday when Morrison began discussing a lawsuit filed by a transgender female inmate requesting the state pay for her sex reassignment operation so that she can be housed in a female prison.

The lawsuit, filed by Lyralisa Stevens, asserts that she needs the surgery in order to be moved to a female prison because she is currently harassed and sexually assaulted by the male inmates in her current facility. Stevens—who was born male—entered prison after having silicone injections in her breasts and hips to make her look more feminine. She is serving 50 years to life for killing a woman over a dispute about clothes.

In accordance with a 1990 court ruling mandating prisons continue hormone treatments for transgender inmates, Stevens has been given hormone injections since her incarceration in 2003. But now she wants the prison to pay for her sex reassignment surgery stating its “medically necessary, and that removal of her penis and testicles and transfer to a women’s prison are the best way to protect her from rape and abuse by male inmates.”

Although many scoff at the price of sex change operations—ranging anywhere from $15,000 to $50,000—and argue prisons should only provide minimal care for inmates, some say that allowing transgender inmates to have sex reassignment surgery and be housed with prisoners of their identified gender will not only cut costs associated with protecting and housing transgender inmates in special areas, but also keep them safe.

Despite the constant threat transgender inmates face, however, some transgender female prisoners don’t want to be moved to women’s prisons.

The Los Angeles Times reports:

Thomas Strawn, 52, who uses the name Lisa and is serving a life sentence after a third-strike conviction for burglary, said she is in a committed relationship with the man in the next cell and would not want to move.

“I stayed single for an entire year when I got here,” Strawn said. “But now I got with somebody and I’ve been with him now two years.”

Others, such as convicted killer David, or Bella, Birrell, 58, who said she had been raped in prison, would like to be transferred to a women’s facility. “You don’t have to worry about the constant harassment like you get from the men here,” she said.

While states continue to struggle with how to properly care for and protect its inmates, one thing is clear: things aren’t getting any easier.

What do you think? Should states have to pay for gender reassignment surgery for its inmates?

Let’s talk about it!


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  • ruggie

    The flip side is, this would open up the doors to even more abuse, as effeminate men will be pressured into getting sex ops to please their abusers.

  • Why did you have to say “do we have to pay” that is inflammatory language, is it not? Why not “should we pay”? You can already tell the bias of the writer of this article before you make your own comment.

    Transgender people suffer ills that most of us will never know and we have to consider ourselves lucky for it. To debate this issue and be flippant about it is not justice.

    However, that being said, I believe that until inmates can have plastic surgery across the board then there is no reason why anyone should. There are other pertinent health issues that need to be addressed.

  • cupcakes and shiraz

    No. I think that we should pay for the bare necessities which is food, clothing and shelter. The criminals broke the law and shouldn’t have access to things that many tax-paying, law abiding citizens can’t get themselves.

    • Lolabadchick

      I think your tax dollars should pay for the bare necessities for those jail birds!!