Health

Get Out-of-Jail-Free Card?

Inmate sex change surgery pre-empted by parole

After an argument in 1985 in a Fullerton, California, bar, Jeffrey Bryan Norsworthy shot Franklin Gordon Liefer, Jr., to death. Norsworthy was convicted of murder in 1987 and sentenced to prison for 17 years to life.

Near Sacramento, California, lies Creek State Prison, home to more than 3,000 male inmates, some of whom are notorious criminals, including Charles Manson and Tex Watson of Manson Family Helter-Skelter fame; Lyle Melendez, who with his brother Eric murdered the men’s parents; and inmate Michelle-Lael Norsworthy, formerly known as Jeffrey Bryan Norsworthy.

Mule Creek is the only California penal institution designated a “sensitive needs yards” facility, capable of housing prisoners at risk for gang retaliation or certain victimizations.

Here’s where the story gets even crazier. Norsworthy, who was born male, was also a male when he committed murder in 1985. In the mid-1990s Norsworthy began openly identifying as a transsexual woman. In January 2000, he was diagnosed with gender-identity disorder, which is now known as gender dysphoria, according to court documents.

Should American taxpayers be saddled with paying for convicted criminals’ gender reassignment surgeries?

In April of this year, United States District Judge Jon Tigar ordered the state of California to grant Norsworthy’s transgender sex reassignment surgery, claiming the procedure is the “only adequate” treatment, given the inmate’s condition.

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The surgery, which had been scheduled for July, was delayed after the state of California appealed.

Should American taxpayers be saddled with paying for convicted criminals’ gender reassignment surgeries?

Massachusetts Case Precedent
Robert Kosilek murdered his wife, Sheryl, in 1990 by strangulation. He wrapped a wire around her neck three times, stuffed her body in the back of her car, and parked it at a nearby mall. At the time of the killing, he sported a beard and dressed and behaved like a man.

Kosilek was sentenced to life in prison without parole. However, Kosilek attended court dressed in women’s clothing and wearing makeup and painted fingernails. Following his conviction, Robert Kosilek changed his name legally to Michelle.

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Michelle Kosilek sued the state of Massachusetts, demanding that taxpayers fund his sex-change operation.

In 2012, U.S. District Court Judge Mark L. Wolf ordered inmate transgender surgery for Kosilek after finding that the state’s failure to provide surgery to Kosilek violated the Constitution’s protections against “cruel and unusual punishment.” Prison officials acknowledged Kosilek’s gender-identity disorder, and have provided therapy, hormone treatment, and permanent facial hair removal, as well as female clothing and personal effects, according to court documents.

One convicted murderer received therapy, hormone treatment, and permanent facial hair removal, as well as female clothing and personal effects.

The 1st Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in Boston upheld Wolf’s order in favor of Kosilek. But the administration of former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick appealed to the full circuit court, and in a 3-2 ruling threw out Wolf’s order, the Boston Globe reported. In May, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear Koslik’s appeal.

California Case
Norsworthy started living as a woman while in state prison. California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation officials said Norsworthy has been given proper care over the years, including counseling and hormone therapy. Despite the treatment, Tigar, of San Francisco, ordered the corrections department to allow Norsworthy to have the transgender operation “as promptly as possible.” The Department of Corrections appealed Tigar’s order, and Norsworthy’s scheduled surgery was halted.

Rather than intervening as Massachusetts’ governor had, Gov. Jerry Brown allowed the parole to go through.

But before the appeal could be heard, Norsworthy was released to parole on Aug. 12. “The Board of Parole Hearings heard the Norsworthy case in May and found her eligible for parole,” said Jeffrey Callison, press secretary for the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

Rather than intervening as Massachusetts’ governor had, Gov. Jerry Brown allowed the parole to go through.

“The governor had 30 days to consider the case. One of the governor’s avenues is to take no action and on August 7 that is what happened. Taking no action means that the board’s finding of eligibility stood,” Callison said.

The parole decision makes it highly unlikely that Norsworthy will be able to have surgery funded by the state. Oral arguments in the federal case had been scheduled for Aug. 13, but were canceled with the parole decision.

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