Katherine Ducharme -
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) -- A new Michigan Department of Corrections policy is opening the door for more transgender inmates to receive hormone therapy treatments.
A transgender woman at the Macomb County Correctional Facility pushed for the changes, which were put into place on June 26.
The new policy allows inmates to receive hormone therapy and gender reassignment surgery while incarcerated.
"Every prisoner is important, this is something that we wanted to do, that we needed to do," said MDOC spokesperson Chris Gautz.
A Gender Dysphoria Collaborative Review Committee is a new addition to the revised policy and will approve the treatments. If an inmate believes they fall into the category of being gender dysphoric, the committee will look at the inmate's medical history and give a medical and psychological evaluation.
Gender dysphoria by definition means a conflict between a person's assigned gender and the gender they identify with.
In the past, inmates were examined by the chief medical director and MDOC director.
"When you have a robust committee that can look at this, one reason that is to make sure that we're only getting those who truly are experiencing this and are gender dysphoric," Gautz said. "Not somebody who lives in a cubical with eight guys and thinks, hey, this is a great way for me to get my own cell to myself."
If approved, a specific treatment plan will be put together for the prisoner. A plan could include specific living conditions, like a single cell, access to toilets and showers with "relative privacy," and gender-conforming clothes and other items.
In some cases, prisoners could be granted hormone treatments and surgical procedures on a case-by-case basis. Also, prisoners are allowed at least two reassessments each year.
"Prison can be a dangerous place no matter who you are, what gender you are or what gender you identify as, but we feel like this step will make that individual feel as safe as they can be," Gautz said.
Hormone treatment costs between $50 and $70 a month per individual, according to the MDOC. So who's paying for the treatments, surgery and new staff?
"That will come out of our general fund budget, so that is taxpayer funded," said Gautz. "Previous to that, if someone had the hormone therapy going on, families who have the financial means to provide that for their loved one that's in prison would have the ability to provide that payment as well."
MDOC told 24 Hour News 8 there are currently 50 transgender inmates spread across 30 facilities in Michigan. It is possible the number could rise with the new policy in place.
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