In a settlement, the state has agreed to pay $167,500 to Michalle Wright, 26, a transgender woman who is currently incarcerated at the medium security prison in Salem. The state will also pay $100,000 in attorneys’ fees for Wright.
The settlement was won on her behalf by the American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon. The lawsuit, filed by the ACLU of Oregon on Oct. 17, 2016, argued it is cruel and unusual punishment to deny necessary medical care to prisoners.
ODOC also agreed to review a request to transfer Wright from the all-male facility to the Coffee Creek Correctional Facility, a female facility. It also agreed to continue to work on rules and protocols that address the needs of inmates with gender dysphoria.
“This lawsuit was not about her. It was about getting some help and the right healthcare,” said Victoria Wright, Michalle’s mother. “Prisons are for reform, not torture.”
In a statement, ODOC Director Colette Peters said the department never disputed the idea that transgender individuals should have access to quality medical and mental health care.
“The settlement agreement in this case affirms and reinforces ODOC’s commitments to these principles, and allows ODOC to move forward with these commitments without further litigation,” said Peters in the statement.
Mat dos Santos, the legal director at the ACLU of Oregon, said Wright had requested hormone therapy and other forms of treatment close to 100 times but was repeatedly denied.
Wright is serving time for an attempted robbery. Wright was born male but has identified as and dressed as a female since she was a teenager.
According to the settlement, ODOC is expected to provide the ACLU and Basic Rights Oregon with a draft of new rules addressing the medical needs of inmates with gender dysphoria before Jan. 25, 2018. The ACLU and BRO will be allowed to confer with ODOC over the draft if there are objections.