HRC Blog

Settlement Results in Major Change in Transgender Medical Policy for Federal Prisoners

The National Center for Lesbian Rights reported last week that a settlement agreement was reached in the case of Vanessa Adams, a Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) inmate in North Carolina. 

Adams sued BOP to gain access to necessary treatment for her gender identity disorder.  As an inmate in Florida at the time, Adams was being denied medically necessary hormone therapy and was prevented from otherwise expressing a female gender identity because she had not received this treatment prior to her incarceration.

This so called “freeze frame” policy restricts the treatment for any person with GID to the level provided at the time she or he entered the federal prison system.  Adams was formally diagnosed with GID and informed of treatment options by BOP doctors.  Despite the seriousness of her medical condition, due to this “freeze frame” policy, Adams was refused the medically necessary treatment available for GID.

The policy change resulting from this victory will help to ensure that inmates in the custody of BOP with a possible diagnosis of GID will receive individualized assessment and evaluation. 

In a memo released in May 2011, BOP indicated the end of the “freeze frame” policy by providing that “treatment options will not be precluded solely due to level of services received, or lack of services, prior to incarceration.”  BOP has informed all individuals in the prison system who have been diagnosed with GID, as well as all medical staff treating these prisoners of the policy change. 

The Human Rights Campaign included this policy change as part of our Blueprint for Positive Change, a series of recommendations to the Obama administration on policy and regulatory changes that would improve the lives of LGBT Americans.  The Human Rights Campaign applauds this policy change and encourages state and county prison systems to pursue similar policies to ensure that all inmates have access to the medical care they need.

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