Federal Judge Orders MA Department of Correction to Pay for Inmate's Sex Change

Sep 6, 2012

A Federal judge has ordered the Massachusetts Department of Correction to provide a sex change operation for a convicted murderer suffering from gender identity disorder. WAMC’s Berkshire Bureau Chief Lucas Willard reports…

Michelle Koselik, who legally changed his name in 1993, is currently serving a sentence for the 1990 murder of his wife, Cheryl Koselik. Koselik strangled his wife and left the body in a car in a shopping mall parking lot in the Southeast Massachusetts town of North Attleboro.  Koselik, who has been diagnosed with gender identity disorder, has been living his life as a woman inside an all-male prison in Norfolk for almost two decades.

Earlier this week, US District Court Chief Judge Mark Wolf ruled that gender reassignment surgery was necessary for Koselik’s treatment of his mental illness. According to Wolf, by denying Koselik a sex change, the Department of Correction violated his Eight Amendment right. Wolf wrote in his ruling that Department of Correction’s denial of the surgery counts as cruel and unusual punishment and that “denying adequate medical care because of a fear of controversy or criticism from politicians, the press, and the public serves no legitimate penological purpose.”

In a statement provided to WAMC from the Department of Correction, DOC spokeswoman Diane Wiffin only said, “we are reviewing decision.”

Equality Rights groups are heralding judge’s decision as a positive step for incarcerated transgendered people. Mara Keisling, Executive Director of the National Center for Transgender Equality in Washington DC says the judges ruling is in line with the US Constitution….

Gunner Scott, Executive Director of Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition says that gender identity disorder is recognized by top medical organizations, and that it is lawful and necessary to provide Koselik with proper treatment – including the sex change operation.

State Senate Minority leader Bruce Tarr released a statement on the case, which was sent to WAMC over email. The statement says in part that, “the decision will lead to an outrageous result in the current case, and sets a bad precedent for future cases.” Tarr continues, saying that the decision “must not be allowed to stand the Department of Corrections should immediately appeal it.” Tarr also noted that he is writing a letter to the Department of Correction, and that he will reach out to the legislature for further support in opposition.

The Senator previously filed failed legislation that would prevent public funds to pay for “sex reassignment” operations.

In a previous court ruling in 2002, the DOC did grant Koselik access to hormone replacement therapy and laser hair removal.   

Mara Keisling of the NCTE says that the medical community is more often recognizing transgendered prisoners.