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Transgender Conn. inmate sues DOC over lack of medical treatment

The inmate alleges they are denying her transitional care and housing her in a prison for men

Dave Altimari
The Hartford Courant

NEWTON, Conn. — A transgender inmate has filed a federal lawsuit against the state Department of Correction alleging they are denying her transitional care and housing her in a prison for male inmates.

The lawsuit raises questions about whether the department is conforming to a new state law that went into effect last July that gives transgender inmates the legal right to be housed in a prison that matches the gender which they identify.

Veronica May Clark said in the lawsuit the state has denied her proper medications and is currently housing her at the Garner Correctional Institute in Newtown, which is for male inmates.

Clark was convicted of murdering the boyfriend of Clark’s former spouse in Waterbury in 2007. Clark was sentenced in 2009 to 75 years in prison. At the time, Clark identified as a man. She began her gender transition after arriving in prison.

Karen Martucci, spokeswoman for the Department of Correction, said the department “has a comprehensive policy aimed at meeting the unique needs of individuals identified as gender non-conforming.”

“A thorough assessment by a mental health provider, and treatment if medically appropriate, takes place regardless if the person has received treatment in the community. The agency goes to great lengths to ensure the safe and humane treatment of all individuals under our care,” she said.

In her lawsuit, Clark said prison officials have repeatedly denied medical and mental healthcare for an evaluation and transitional care for gender dysphoria. The lawsuit seeks access to the proper care as well as $500,000 in damages.

When the legislature passed a gender transition law protecting the rights of inmates last year, civil rights advocates said Connecticut was the first state to enact this kind of legislation. In addition to housing, the law also is supposed to give inmates the right to be searched by a correction officer who matches their self-identified gender, to be addressed in a manner consistent with their gender identity and have access to commissary items, especially clothing, that matches their gender identity.

Dan Barrett, the legal director for the ACLU of Connecticut, said the new law was “a very important step” for transgender rights but “there’s a constant struggle where legislators tell the DOC to do something and they don’t follow through.”

“It’s pretty hair-raising to see what happened to this person,” Barrett said. “You don’t get sentenced and then put in prison and have your health concerns ignored. One of the questions would be are her health concerns being ignored because they are singling out a transgender person or because the system overall is in turmoil.”

Clark said prison officials have repeatedly denied medical and mental healthcare for an evaluation and transitional care for gender dysphoria. The lawsuit seeks access to the proper care as well as $500,000 in damages.

Clark tried self-castration in July of 2016. According to her lawsuit, Clark said after this a DOC official told her she the state’s policy is only to provide medication and treatment for inmates who begin gender transition before arriving in prison.

The Department of Correction outlined procedures for assessing and dealing with gender non-conforming inmates in February of 2018. The directive allows inmates who had been receiving hormone therapy to continue getting it in prison.

However, the law enacted later in 2018 does not address whether inmates can begin gender reassignment and have surgery after they have arrived in prison.

The Bureau of Justice Statistics estimates there are 3,200 transgender inmates in the nation’s prisons and jails.

As part of the lawsuit Clark submitted several pages of medical records requests sent to DOC officials from the past few months.

“I have been sending you requests about my transitional health care for almost three years now and also have been filing grievance after grievance, the vast majority of which simply disappear,” Clark wrote. “WHAT IS HAPPENING!?! My hormones are still far too low. I need you to consult with a specialist who knows how to treat my gender dysphoria.”

The medical records submitted do not include any responses from DOC officials to her requests.

Barrett said the statement that DOC doesn’t have to assist someone who starts transitioning after they enter the prison system has “no basis in the law.”

“That’s like saying if someone develops diabetes while they are in prison we don’t have to treat them at all,” Barrett said. “This is clearly someone who has been trying to get the attention of DOC officials for medical help.”

In 2007 Clark plead guilty to the murder of Erich Talbert, who was living with Christa Clark, Veronica May-Clark’s former wife.

Clark broke into the Waterbury home where Christa Clark was living and attacked the couple as they slept with a metal club that had metal screws attached to it.

Clark crushed Talbert’s head with several blows and left Christa Clark for dead as well after hitting her with the club several times. She survived the attack. The couple had two children.


©2019 The Hartford Courant (Hartford, Conn.)

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