Nev. considers bill to meet needs of transgender inmates

Senate Bill 258 would require officials to create regulations in the handling of transgender inmates, including providing "cultural competency" training for staff


By John Sadler
Las Vegas Sun

CARSON CITY, Nev. — A bill proposed in the Nevada Legislature would require the state Department of Corrections to create regulations in the handling of transgender inmates, including providing "cultural competency" training for staff who interact with non-cisgender inmates.

Senate Bill 258, introduced by state Sen. Melanie Scheible, D- Las Vegas, would regulate standards for supervision, security, housing and health treatments. Those treatments could potentially include gender confirmation surgery.

The bill received support from a wide range of progressive groups in the state, as well as both the Clark County and Washoe County public defender's offices. It was heard Monday in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

"I can't imagine that it is easy to contend with gender dysphoria. I also can't imagine that it is easy to contend with being incarcerated," Scheible said. "So, to do both at the same time sounds like an incredibly challenging time for any person to overcome, and so for us to make that more difficult is simply cruel."

Deborah Striplin, the Prison Rape Elimination Act coordinator with the state Department of Corrections, said there were about 50 inmates in Nevada who have self-identified as transgender. She did not know how many had been medically diagnosed with gender dysphoria.

Studies show that transgender inmates suffer high rates of violence while incarcerated — a survey by the National Center for Transgender Equality that reports 30% of respondents were physically or sexually assaulted by correctional staff or another inmate in the preceding year.

Currently, there's no regulation preventing prison officials from stopping an inmate's hormone treatment or not approving confirmation surgery, said Holly Welborn, the policy director at ACLU of Nevada. Surgery is "essential and medically necessary to alleviate their gender dysphoria," according to a citation from the World Professional Association for Transgender Health.

Nevada lawmakers do have a court ruling to use as a roadmap in crafting legislation.

In August 2019, a three-judge panel upheld a 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that required the Idaho Department of Corrections to provide Adree Edmo, a transgender inmate, with gender confirmation surgery.

The court determined that the Idaho department's refusal to provide Edmo with the surgery constituted cruel and unusual punishment, which would violate the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The court's decision has jurisdiction over Nevada.

"The courts of this jurisdiction are clear that failure to provide medically necessary treatment for gender dysphoria could result in significant injury and the unnecessary infliction of pain on an incarcerated person," Welborn said.

Sen. Keith Pickard, R- Henderson, raised concerns that the proposal is too vague and needs to "get into the details of what is the standard that the ( Department of Corrections) is to follow."

Scheible called the bill a "broad mandate" to the corrections department, stressing that the plans could include treatment ranging from therapy to gender confirmation surgery.

"It doesn't say you have to cover this surgery and you have to provide these hormones, it says 'you have to have a policy, you have to come up with some rules of the game for people who are entering the Nevada Department of Correction custody who have these particular needs,' " Scheible said.

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(c)2021 the Las Vegas Sun (Las Vegas, Nev.)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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