A U.S. District Court judge Thursday ruled the Idaho Department of Correction and its contractor for health services must provide gender confirmation surgery to a transgender prisoner from the Pocatello area who has been asking for the procedure for years. That inmate could be only the second in the country to receive that treatment.
Adree Edmo, 31, a transgender woman who has been housed in a men’s prison, was sentenced in April 2012 for sexual abuse of a child under 16 in Bannock County, according to the court order and IDOC’s website. She will finish her sentence in 2021.
Prior to her time in prison, “she lived full-time as a woman, dressing in women’s clothes and wearing women’s cosmetics,” she wrote in her original civil rights complaint against the prison system, dated to April 2017.
Once in prison, she wrote, she sought treatment for gender dysphoria — a medical condition in which the difference between a person’s at-birth gender and their gender identity is severe, distressing and detrimental to their quality of life.
A prison psychiatrist diagnosed her with the disorder in June 2012. A month after that initial diagnosis, a prison psychologist made the same finding. Treatment for severe cases of gender dysphoria can include gender confirmation surgery.
“Many transgender individuals are comfortable living with their gender role, expression and identity without surgery,” wrote U.S. District Judge Lynn B. Winmill in the order. “For others, however, gender confirmation surgery ... is the only effective treatment.”
In Edmo’s case, according to the order, prison officials provided her with hormone therapy. Despite years of treatment, though, “she continues to experience gender dysphoria so significant that she cuts herself to relieve emotional pain,” according to the court order.
“Upon learning the (Idaho Department of Correction and Corizon Correctional Healthcare) denied her treatment in 2014,” the original complaint reads, “(Edmo) attempted suicide.”
Amy Whelan, a lawyer with the National Center for Lesbian Rights who helped litigate the case, pointed out Edmo’s attorneys asked the judge for a preliminary injunction — an emergency ruling on a specific fact of the case — because they were so concerned for her health and well-being if she did not receive the surgery soon.
Edmo’s case against the Idaho Department of Correction will proceed in other ways now, Whelan said, but it was important to secure this order first.
Prison staff and employees of Corizon, which provides medical services in the state’s prisons, were aware of Edmo’s circumstances, according to the order.
“In refusing to provide that surgery, IDOC and Corizon have ignored generally accepted medical standards for the treatment of gender dysphoria,” Winmill wrote in the order.
He found the refusal of treatment violated Edmo’s Eighth Amendment protection against cruel and unusual punishment. Winmill ordered the department provide Edmo with gender confirmation surgery within six months of Thursday.
Whelan said she only knew of one other inmate in the country to receive gender confirmation surgery while in prison, even though it’s considered safe, standard treatment in severe gender dysphoria cases.
“Despite that, prisons around the country and in Idaho don’t provide it,” Whelan said in a phone interview Friday.
She pointed out it is important for prisoners to receive adequate medical care while incarcerated, in part because the vast majority of them will reenter society one day.
“Hopefully (this case) will let other prison systems know they’re obligated to provide medical care consistent with the constitution,” she said.