Perspective from other states as NC prisons struggle with transgender policies

This month the Department of Public Safety will transfer Kanautica Zayre-Brown, a transgender woman it is holding in a men’s prison, to a women’s facility.

Kanautica Zayre-Brown

Though the decision was announced in late May, the department delayed the transfer in order to “continue researching and implementing best practices from the states that have transferred transgender women to female facilities,” according to a letter to the ACLU. The department did not specify to which facility it will transfer Zayre-Brown, but said it will be revising policies and giving staff training on those best practices.

As the state decides establish how best to handle transgender inmates — both those like Zayre-Brown who have been transitioning for years and those who have not — it might be worth looking to Missouri.  This week the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported the state has paid more than $350,000 in legal fees in a long-running case whereby the state initially denied hormone therapy to Jessica Hicklin, a transgender woman serving a life sentence at the maximum security Potosi Correctional Center.

Last year Hicklin won a federal lawsuit in which her lawyers argued the state’s denial of her treatment violated the the Eighth Amendment, which bars cruel and unusual punishment.

The largest payment, $301,372, went to the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund Inc., which represented Hicklin.

Lambda Legal is currently representing transgender state employees and their families who have been denied health care under the state health care plan.

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