PORTLAND, Maine — A transgender inmate is suing a company that provides health care services for state prisons, requesting hair removal treatment and gender reassignment surgery for herself and the reinstatement of hormone therapy for two other inmates.
Scott Gagnon, 35, who also goes by Missy, claims that Correct Care Solutions denied her a higher dosage of hormone therapy and stopped similar treatment for two other transgender inmates after it was initially prescribed. The complaint also requests court costs and $100,000 in damages each, for all three inmates.
The suit filed in federal court further seeks to compel Correct Care Solutions to provide diagnostic testing and treatment to all prisoners identifying as transgender. It is one in a growing number of similar suits filed across the country since the Department of Justice sided with a transgender inmate in a court case last year.
A representative for Correct Care Solutions declined to comment on the suit and did not answer general questions about the Tennessee-based company’s approach to transgender health issues. The Maine Department of Corrections did not respond to requests for comment.
Last year, the United States Supreme Court declined to hear the case of a transgender Massachusetts prisoner who sought taxpayer-funded sex-change surgery, upholding a 3-2 decision against the inmate from U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, which includes Maine. The appeals court ruled that denying Michelle Kosilek’s request for the surgery did not violate the constitutional prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment.
Gagnon claimed in the suit that “after fighting for years with employees of Correct Care Solutions to acknowledge [her] as a transgender woman,” she was eventually diagnosed with gender dysphoria, prescribed hormone therapy, given women’s undergarments and transferred to the women’s prison at Maine Correctional Center in Windham. Gagnon was convicted of arson for a 2000 fire that destroyed a Bangor lingerie shop and is listed as female in its directory of state inmates. She was convicted in 2001, and her earliest release date is May 2017.
Gagnon claims she has not seen a mental health worker in weeks, although she was supposed to see one each week, and that Correct Care Solutions staff refused her an increased dosage of her testosterone-blockers and estrogen.
Before being transferred to the women’s prison, staff told Gagnon that other transgender inmates in the facility were “‘on their meds’ and doing well,” according to the civil rights complaint she filed without a lawyer. But upon arriving at the prison she found other transgender inmates had been taken off hormone treatment, the court documents state. Health care in Maine’s prisons is taxpayer funded.
Gagnon’s lawsuit asks the court to compel Correct Care Solutions to put inmates Timothy Dwyer and Connor McAlister “back on their hormone therapy,” citing the Eighth Amendment prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment.
There is no inmate named Connor McAlister in the prisoner directory, but Connor MacCalister is serving life in the Maine Correctional Center for stabbing a woman to death in the ice cream aisle of a Saco supermarket in 2015. MacCalister is listed as female in the prisoner directory but has identified as male for more than a decade and stopped taking antipsychotic medications before the murder, the Portland Press Herald reported at the time.
Dwyer, who also is referred to as Tresa in the complaint, is 51 years old and was incarcerated at the Maine Correctional Center after being convicted of aggravated assault. Dwyer, who is listed as female in the prisoner directory, was sentenced to four years in prison with all but 15 months suspended and could be released as early as Jan. 31, 2017.
Correct Care Solutions denied one of her fellow inmates hormone therapy because of an approaching release date and refused the treatment to the other one unless “‘they were good and took their psychiatric medications,’” Gagnon claims in the civil rights complaint.
The suit, filed on Oct. 28, asks the court to ensure that mental health professionals are made available to all transgender inmates and that every inmate identifying as transgender have access to “any and all tests necessary for the … proper diagnosis of Gender Dysphoria,” which is the medical term for feeling that one’s gender does not match the one assigned at birth.
At least one other Maine prisoner has sued over the state prison system’s alleged failure to provide hormone treatment, and this sort of lawsuit has become increasingly common since the federal government weighed in on the issue.
Last year, the Justice Department filed documents in support of a transgender inmate who sued Georgia prison officials for failing to provide her hormone therapy she’d been taking for decades. The department — which as part of the executive branch does not decide law but has wide purview over prosecution — said that the failure “violates the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment.”
Similar suits have since been filed in several other states. According to the American Civil Liberties Union, which is suing for a transgender inmate in Oregon, courts have upheld the right to certain medical care for transgender prisoners.
“Transition-related care is essential to the health of some prisoners, and courts have ruled that the denial of such care is unconstitutional,” said Oamshri Amarasingham, advocacy director at the ACLU of Maine.